A throng of well-wishers turned out on a sunny Saturday, April 9, 2011 to formally dedicate the Ed Roberts Campus adjacent to the Ashby BART station in Berkeley.
Although the two story building which serves as a headquarters for several independent living and disabled rights and service groups has been functioning for some months, the ceremony served as the official “ribbon cutting” for the project.
Dignitaries including Congresswoman Barbara Lee, City of Berkeley, BART, and private sector representatives spoke at the brief outdoor ceremony prior to the ribbon cutting.
The campus, built on part of the east side parking lot of the Ashby BART station, is a single structure that contains offices for programs including the Center for Independent Living, Center for Accessible Technology, Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program, Computer Technologies Program, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, and other organizations.
It includes a childcare center run by Through the Looking Glass. A large, currently empty space along the street front is slated for a café. The eastern entrance to the below street level BART Station passes through the lower levels of the site.
There are meeting rooms, a south facing terrace, and an expansive, glassy, atrium with a signature red spiral ramp from lobby to second floor. The entire structure was designed for “universal accessibility”, with features from wide corridors to specially arranged restrooms making it as functional as possible for people with a wide variety of physical challenges.
The project is named for Ed Roberts, a pioneering disability rights activist who spent much of his life in an iron lung after contracting polio. Roberts was the first severely disabled student to attend UC Berkeley, and lived in the Berkeley community as an adult.
In addition to leading the Center for Independent Living, Roberts was Director of the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation from 1976-83. He died in 1995. His mother, Zona Roberts, was one of those who spoke at the ceremony.
“Oh my God, look at this crowd, this is great!” exclaimed Ed Roberts Campus President Dmitri Belser as he came to the podium to begin the ceremony. I estimated there were probably close to 500 people standing or sitting in front of the main building entrance on Adeline, and dozens more already inside.
The street had been blocked off and the throng spilled out into the empty traffic lanes as the ceremony commenced. Wheelchairs, service animals, and the graceful gestures of sign language populated the scene.
“This is an incredible moment in our community”, Belser said, calling the complex “an important structure for our community and the Bay Area.” He noted that the building project had helped the independent living community both develop bonds between both participant groups, and unite with “many people outside the community.”
Belser introduced Congresswoman Barbara Lee as someone who ten years ago was “the lone voice of sanity in a nation screaming for blood.” He called her “a person who has always taken the values of Berkeley and put them on a national stage.”
She had, he said, taken a morning flight to the Bay Area from Washington after Congress reached agreement last night to prevent a government shutdown.
Lee came to the podium to warm applause. “I told those Tea Party Republicans they better not shut the government down, so I could be here!” she said. “We’re going to beat them.” Much of the crowd cheered.
“This is such a wonderful day”, Lee said. “So many years of hard work and dedication. Let’s give Ed a round of applause, too!” she added, a suggestion that the audience heartily followed.
“I remember Ed very well. I know he’s here with us today. But I know he’s also saying, our work is just beginning.”
After noting that the about 45% of the project was funded by private sources and the tenants, and 55% paid for with government funds, she said, “we can accomplish much…we can do it, we can do it.” “It’s been an amazing effort.” “It’s so important we share today in this legacy of Ed Roberts.”
She praised “all of the Berkeley officials for being such leaders in the independent living movement.” “We’re the birthplace. This is a model for the rest of country.”
Lee noted that in her role on the Appropriations Committee she made funding for the Ed Roberts Campus “a priority in my earmark requests.” “I like earmarks” she went on, a dig at Congressional leaders who have temporarily ended the practice of Members of Congress asking for funds to be dedicated to specific projects in their districts.
“We have got to make sure that Federal funds come into our community for non-profits and efforts such as this.”
“It’s very dismal in Washington D.C.”, she said. “Being with you today provides a beacon of hope,” she said, calling the 9th Congressional District “the most progressive and enlightened in the country.”
After Lee’s brief remarks she was presented with an A.T. & T. leadership award by Loretta Walker, Vice-President, External Affairs-Bay Area, for AT& T California. Walker praised the campus as “the first transit oriented development in the country designed solely for people with disabilities.”
“This is for all of us,” Lee said, hefting the award “all those who have led in the disability movement.” She said he would put the award on display in her district headquarters.
Belzer returned to the podium to introduce local dignitaries. He said that when the Ed Roberts Campus was proposed, people said “In Berkeley? At BART? Good luck.” But, he added, “we had strong advocates in both the City of Berkeley and BART.”
“This is a wonderful day”, said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. “Congratulations to all who made this happen.”
“There’s something like 19 different agencies that dealt with transportation that funded this particular project”, Bates added. At the end, the project still had a funding gap of about six million dollars, which was bridged with tax credits.
Bates pointed out in the crowd fellow Council members, including Susan Wengraf, Gordon Wozniak, and Linda Maio. He initially missed Councilmember Max Anderson who was sitting in front of him and stood up, waving his arms, to laughter from the crowd. Bates didn’t mention Councilmember Kriss Worthington. Worthington me afterwards, somewhat wryly, that he had also waved at Bates from the crowd. I also saw Councilmember Darryl Moore at the ceremony.
As Bates finished his Council introductions a women in the crowd called out “...and Dona Spring!” recalling the deceased disabled Councilwoman who had also been a proponent of the project.
Bob Franklin, BART Board President, followed Bates saying, “BART has embarked on many transit oriented projects that turn its parking lots into community serving facilities.” “This is the best possible example of that.” “On behalf of the BART organization, welcome to your new home.”
“This is a prime example of public / private partnerships” said Matthew Reilein, Senior Vice President of J.P. Morgan Chase. That firm had been instrumental in securing the last six million of tax credit funding for the forty six million dollar project.
He praised Belser in particular, saying, “I do want to single out Dmitri, he’s a very persuasive and persistent guy.” “The City of Berkeley was an incredibly flexible partner”, he added.
The final speaker, Zona Roberts—“Ed Roberts indefatigable mother” as Belser said—put the final touch on the occasion with warm and thoughtful comments. “As we’re all proud of our creation of the Ed Roberts campus, she’s the person who created Ed Roberts”, Belser said, to laughter, as he brought her to the podium.
“I feel like I’m kind of honored for getting pregnant,” the 91 year-old Roberts said. “Part of that was easy, the rest of it got a little complicated.”
“I’m proud,” she continued. “The first time I walked up that ramp (inside the lobby) I thought I would burst into tears.” The building is “just so perfect.”
Roberts added she did nearly cry when, on a previous visit from the top of the ramp, she “looked down for the first time and saw this building come to life”, with staff and users moving through the lobby.
She introduced two brothers of Ed Roberts in the audience, told of their role in supporting him through college and in his activist causes, and praised his caretakers, some of whom were in the audience. “I want to appreciate, for all of them, what it’s meant to keep Ed alive, and have this happen.”
“Thank you for being here, enjoy the building, enjoy each other. As Ed used to say, ‘Here we are, and we’re not going away’.”
After Roberts spoke, Belzer made a final series of acknowledgements, including the design firm of Leddy Maytum Stacy. “Bill Leddy and Greg Novicoff gave us the building we had all dreamed of all these years,” he said.
He also singled out Caleb Dardick for praise. Dardick, he explained, had been working as an aide to Mayor Shirley Dean when the project was proposed. “They were the ones who were really the brood hens of the Ed Roberts Campus and they hatched this thing”, Belser said.
He thanked the past presidents of the Ed Roberts Campus.
With the formal remarks concluded, the crowd pressed forward to watch Barbara Lee and Zona Roberts take a large pair of gold shears and cut through a red ribbon across the front doors. The two then entered, arm in arm, and made a stately progression up the spiral ramp to the second floor, pausing halfway along to look over the happy crowd below as it poured into the building.
In the crowd I ran into Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “This is very exciting”, he said. “A bunch of my friends used to joke this is the only thing Shirley Dean and I actually agreed on.”
Worthington praised the project for increasing cooperation between activist and community service groups. He noted that many of the varied programs using the facility were spinoffs from the pioneering Center for Independent Living. They had initially gone to separate quarters, but were now together in one campus.
“A beautiful completing of the circle”, he concluded.
Elsewhere in the crowd Councilmember Susan Wengraf paused to say “It’s a wonderful day. It’s a wonderful feeling you can actually get something as complex as this done.”
“I’m happy it’s completed”, said Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz as he walked through the building. “It’s beautiful.”
“A fifteen year odyssey” Dardick, who is now the UC Berkeley Director of Local Government and Community Relations, told me.
Most stayed to explore the building, share refreshments in the large atrium, and mingle. The various organizations in the two-story structure had set out tables with information on their programs and there were hundreds of conversations going on.
I ran into a neighbor who works at the Ed Roberts Campus. We chatted a bit, then “I see someone I have to talk to, I have to network!” she said, and went off through the crowd, expressing perhaps one of the key spirits of the occasion.
There was considerable security at the event, perhaps because of the presence of Congresswoman Lee. Part of the BART parking lot at the rear of the building was blocked off and flanked by police cars and black sedans. Men and women who appeared to be Secret Service agents stood at strategic points and scanned the crowd.
“How many of you are there?” said a woman to one of them as he watched from the ramp inside the building. “More of us than you think”, he replied. But they were unobtrusive and the crowd co-mingled and explored freely, many stopping Lee to thank her and talk with her as she moved through the throng.
Planet reader Carlos Navarro sent us pictures of the tower of water from the hydrant that burst at Shattuck and Center yesterday. He was there and captured almost all of it with his camera. More of his pictures can be seen on Flickr at
Firefighters dealt with downed power lines and a gas leak while battling a blaze at a home in Berkeley this morning, a fire official said.
Emergency crews received multiple calls from neighbors shortly after 1 a.m. reporting a fire in the 1500 block of Dwight Way, fire Battalion Chief Bill Kehoe said.
Berkeley police officers arrived at the scene first and informed firefighters that power lines were down near the home, which made accessing the blaze difficult.
"They did a great job of keeping us safe and informed," Kehoe said.
Crews were positioned on either side of the home and controlled the blaze in about 40 minutes, Kehoe said.
There were two gas meters in front of the two-story building. The meters were partially made of plastic, and the flames caused them to fail and release gas, Kehoe said.
The gas leak created a six-foot ball of fire, which he said actually helped firefighters because it showed them where the leak was. Firefighters were able to find the gas shutoff valve, which was hidden under some debris, Kehoe said.
Four adults were displaced from the home, and the American Red Cross is providing temporary housing, Kehoe said.
No one was injured, and the cause of the fire is under investigation. Firefighters were still at the scene as of 6:30 a.m.
Over a thousand events took place across the U.S. on April 4 to support the workers and unions in Wisconsin and the Midwest, where Republican-dominated state governments are trying to eliminate collective bargaining for public workers, and cut their healthcare and pensions. In California alone, almost every central labor council organized a rally or march. Two of them took place in Crockett and San Francisco. The events were all called "We Are One" to draw attention to the solidarity of workers and unions nationally in facing this attack.
In Crockett, unions and their supporters marched from each side of the Zampa Memorial Bridge. Union members from the central labor and building trades councils of Contra Costa County marched from one side, and from the Napa/Solano and North Bay councils from the other. As big rig trucks thundered past across the bridge, they blew their horns, while people in cars waved and cheered. One sign summed up the spirit of the march and the connections made by U.S. workers to those around the world: "Fight Like an Egyptian!" In San Francisco, unions, centers for domestic workers, and civil rights and other community organizations marched through downtown San Francisco. As the march stopped in front of several banks, teachers from United Educators of San Francisco, longshoremen from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and hotel housekeepers from UNITE HERE Local 2 were three among the many unions who condemned budget priorities favoring bailouts for banks and cutbacks in public services. Civil rights attorney Eva Paterson joined Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO in recalling that April 4 marked the anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was killed while supporting a strike of public employees - garbage workers in Memphis, Tennessee.
Should the number of Berkeley households increase by 34% over the next 25 years, adding as many as 35,000 new residents to the city?
That seems to be the premise of a low profile but significant item being transmitted to the Planning Commission for discussion on Wednesday, April 6, 2011.
If a series of recommendations drafted by regional agencies is put into effect, the number of households in Berkeley could grow from about 46,000 in 2010 to nearly 62,000 in 2035. State and Regional pressure will be put on Berkeley’s “transit corridors” in particular to accommodate those new residents.
Household growth, of course, essentially means housing unit growth, so that projection might necessitate the construction of nearly 16,000 new housing units in Berkeley or an average of more than 600 per year each year for the next twenty-five.
The projection is contained in a staff report by Berkeley’s Planning Director Dan Marks transmitting what the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) call an “Initial Vision Scenario” forecasting where new population in the nine-county Bay Area might be accommodated.
The draft document is a response to a 2008 state law (Senate Bill 375) requiring regions in California to have a “Sustainable Communities Strategy” designed to meet State targets for greenhouse gas reduction by concentrating residential development in areas where new residents are less likely to drive.
“The underlying assumption of the Initial Vision Scenario is that the region’s growth should be concentrated in transit serving locations”, Marks says in his report to the Commission. “Many jurisdictions in the region have identified such areas within their communities with capacity for growth. These growth areas are called ‘Priority Development Areas’ or PDA’s.”
Berkeley has already identified as part of its Housing Element six PDA’s, including Downtown, the Adeline Corridor, San Pablo Avenue, South Shattuck, Telegraph Avenue south of Dwight, and University Avenue.
To accommodate the “Vision Statement” expectations those areas would need to grow by nearly 5,000 new households Downtown, nearly 3,300 along San Pablo Avenue, and 1,372 along Telegraph south of Dwight to the Oakland border.
The “Vision Scenario” does not exactly state the number of residents expected per household. But using its assumption of some two million new regional residents requiring just over 900,000 new housing units, it’s possible to extrapolate a planning number of about 2.2 residents per household.
For Berkeley, that would mean those 16,000 households would translate into another 35,000 residents, or about a 23% increase in the City’s population over 2010 Census estimates.
Marks makes it clear in the staff report that he is not necessarily endorsing the ABAG numbers for Berkeley.
“As ABAG / MTC did not consult with City staff prior to presenting these numbers, staff cannot say how all were derived and is seeking more information from ABAG to get a better understanding of its process. While each of the PDA’s has substantial room for initial development…(City) staff has not generally qualified the capacity of these areas to accommodate new units.”
Marks then notes that the new ABAG / MTC numbers are dramatically different from projections of recent years. For example, in 2009 ABAG projected that Berkeley would grow by about 4,000 new housing units by 2035. The “Vision Statement”, just two years later, now ups that number by nearly 12,000 additional units.
“City staff has not begun to test the feasibility of the numbers generated for the IVS” Marks tells the Commission. “Our ‘educated guess’ at the moment is that for most if not all of the PDA’s, the level of growth posited in the ABAG / MTC IVS is far in excess of what is reasonable or feasible to assume. We will be commenting back to ABAG to that effect.”
The “Initial Vision Scenario” does note that it “does not take into account many factors that constraint the region’s supply of new housing units, such as limitations in supporting infrastructure, affordable housing subsidies, and market factors.”
However, it says, it “is designed around places for growth identified by local jurisdictions. These places are defined by their character, scale, density, and the expected housing units to be built over the long term. Using ‘place types,’ areas with similar characteristics and physical and social qualities, ABAG asked local governments to identify general development aspirations for areas within their jurisdictions. These places were mostly the Priority Development Areas…”
The driver, so to speak, of the “Vision Scenario” is that in order to reduce greenhouse gases, “vehicle miles traveled” in California should be reduced. “In order to reduce VMT, the fundamental land use strategy is to encourage more people to live near and use transit, and to develop more ‘complete communities’ where people can rely less on automobiles to address daily needs”, the Marks memo says. “The range of strategies that promote more livable communities near transit is often referred to as ‘smart growth’.”
Consideration of the “Vision Scenario” by cities and ABAG / MTC, Marks notes, will feed into the next “Regional Housing Needs Allocation” (RHNA) for the Bay Area which takes place every eight years.
“For the next round”, he writes, “the RHNA must be consistent with the SCS (Sustainable Communities Strategy). The SCS is the first time that there will be a regional development strategy that combines land use, housing and transportation.”
A relatively quick process is envisioned. A draft Housing Needs Allocation will be released a year from now, and ABAG is expected to adopt a final version by fall, 2012. The “allocations”—numbers of new residents each Bay Area community is expected by ABAG to accommodate—will then filter down to the local level as cities adopt their individual Housing Elements.
The “Initial Vision Scenario”, which Marks appended to his staff report, assumes the Bay Area will grow “by over two million people…by the year 2035. This population growth would require around 902,000 new housing units.”
To respond to that expectation, ABAG and MTC planners proposed massive increases in growth and residential density for some Bay Area communities, and went lightly on others.
In Alameda County, for example, the IVS posits that an additional 212,746 households should be accommodated over the next 25 years, a 38% increase countywide.
Emeryville has the highest projection recommended in the County—a whopping 130% increase in housing units from 2010 to 2035, while most Alameda County communities receive a recommendation of about 25 to 40 percent household growth. Oakland is near the top of that group, with an increase of 65,453 units recommended.
Albany—if the ABAG / MTC projections prove accurate—will have to find room for 2,167 additional households. In contrast, wealthy Piedmont is let off lightly. Piedmont planners will only need to search for room to accommodate ten additional households in the next 25 years to make ABAG / MTC happy.
Both Albany and Piedmont are small towns largely built around single family neighborhoods, have no BART stations, but are connected to neighboring communities by large arterial streets and are close to freeways.
But Albany is expected to provide for more than 217 times the number of new households than Piedmont is. Even the availability of more development sites in Albany shouldn’t create a discrepancy that large.
Wealthy enclaves elsewhere in the Bay Area generally receive similarly light projections.
Danville gets an 8.1 % housing increase allotment. Belvedere needs to fit in only 20 new households. On the Peninsula, most of the upscale suburbs get only small increases: Atherton (90 households); Portola Valley (50); Woodside (30).
There are a few exceptions for the upscale. Orinda, for example, is expected to accommodate nearly 2,000 new households, for a 28% increase, presumably because it has a BART station.
The same trend applies on the county level. Marin County is asked to grow its households by about 16.5% while Contra Costa, Alameda, and Santa Clara counties are all given targets of 37% or more and are, together, expected to take the “lion’s share” of regional growth, the IVS says.
Marks takes note of this issue at the end of his staff report. “Staff is also concerned”, he writes, “that other communities with a capacity to accommodate growth with a concerted infill-oriented strategy (i.e. without sprawling) in the same manner as Berkeley is shown in this IVS are not being asked to step up as much. We will also be commenting to that effect in the next few weeks.”
He did not identify any specific other communities staff used as a comparison.
The “Initial Vision Statement” for the region will be refined into “Detailed Scenarios” by ABAG, with a release date of July 2011. These, in turn, will then be distilled into a “Preferred Scenario” by the end of this year.
A public workshop on the Vision Scenario for Alameda County will be held May 19, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Brower Center in Downtown Berkeley.
To see the agenda item, including both the staff report and the Initial Vision Scenario, go to:
The annual agony of tax filing is always a headache but this year the average taxpayer may be complaining of migraines (and a sickening feeling in the stomach) following the New York Times’ revelation that General Electric paid no 2010 taxes despite US profits of $5.1 billion. (GE even asked for a “refund” of $3.2 billion.) It seems the argument that “corporations are people” endowed with First Amendment rights (to, say, spend millions of dollars on public elections) does not extend to include the concept that corporations also have social obligations (like abiding by the law, facing jail-time for criminal behavior, or paying taxes).
GE, a powerful multinational that builds nuclear weapons, designs nuclear powerplants (like the Mark-1 reactors melting down in Fukushima), and molds public opinion through its ownership of MSNBC, is not the only tax scofflaw in the ranks of the country’s Biggest Businesses. The list of Tax Non-payers includes the likes of AIG, Bank of America (BofA), Citigroup, and General Motors (all of which benefited from the $700 billion taxpayer-financed bailout in 2008). BofA paid no taxes for 2009 and 2010 — despite having received a $138 billion bailout package. (For the record, not all big banks are tax-outlaws: Wells Fargo paid $6.3 billion in taxes in 2010.)
BofA claims it doesn’t owe the American people any help in balancing the federal ledgers because the bank didn’t make any profits. Unlike real people who pay real taxes on all their income and are limited to certain deductions, a corporation can deduct virtually all of its expenses. And thanks to the corporate-crafted vagaries of the US Tax Code, BofA was able to inflict the ultimate indignity on the average American taxpayer by asking for — and receiving — a government “refund” of nearly a billion dollars. (In 2009, BofA raked in a total of $1.9 billion in “refunds” from federal, state, local and foreign regulators.)
While BoA claimed a pre-tax loss of $5.4 billion in US operations for 2010, it was a different story beyond the US borders, where BofA stashes billions of foreign earnings in offshore banks, far from the reaches of the US Treasury.
In 2008, the Government Accountability Office reported that 83 of the biggest publicly traded US firms operated offshore tax havens and BofA was in the top tier with 311 foreign subsidiaries in 115 tax havens — 59 of them in the Cayman Islands.
In its 2010 annual report to stockholders, BofA boasted that it had $17.9 billion in profits tucked away in overseas accounts. This allowed BofA to masquerade as a corporate pauper. It also allowed BofA to avoid paying Uncle Sam $2.6 billion in taxes on those hidden assets.
While BofA pleads poverty, it treats its top officials like princes. CEO Brian Moynihan received $1.25 million for his services in 2010 (admittedly a significant cut from his previous year’s take of $6.06 million). But while BofA was posting $5.4 billion in losses on its US operations, Moynihan’s salary was being boosted by $50,000 and enhanced by $905,000 in bonuses and $10 million worth of stocks.
Channel Your Outrage: Move Your Money
Happily, there is an alternative to for-profit mega-banks. Community banks and credit unions offer all the conveniences of Big Banks but without the onerous fees and shady dealing associated with corporate banksters. In addition to offering fee-free ATMs and financial services that can out-compete their corporate rivals, locally owned and operated banks and credit unions invest their profits in their own communities.
In the weeks leading up to Tax Day, the Move Your Money Campaign is encouraging everyone who still has their money squirreled away in a globo-centric commercial bank to “vote with your bucks” and truck your nest eggs over to your nearest neighborhood bank.
On April 12 and 13, Berkeley Community College will be hostng a “community bank-in.” Sign up at the Ambassador’s Desk on the first floor and truck on down to the Atrium in the basement to meet a host of local alternative people’s banks, including:
1st United Services Credit Union (www.1stuscu.org)
Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union (www.coopfcu.org)
USE Credit Union (www.usecu.org)
Contra Costa Federal Credit Union (www.contracostafcu.org)
Community Bank of the Bay (www.communitybankdbay.com)
Mission National Bank (www.mnbsf.com)
Mark your Calendars:
How the Big Banks Stole Our Education.
BCC Auditorium. April 12. 12:15-1:15 PM.
Featured guest speakers: Catherine Austin Fitts, Founder, Solari Investment Advisory Services, LLC; Dennis Bernstein, Host of KPFA’s Flashpoints; Joanne Gifford, Spokesperson for US Uncut.
Move Your Money Community Day.
BCC Atrium. April 13, 12:15 - 1:15PM. Art, Music and Free Speech hosted by BCC students and faculty.
For more information, contact: www.bccmoveyourmoney.blogspot.com
And the Civic Engagement Club: www.bcccivicengagement.com
Stabbing Charge Dropped in Berkeley's People's Park Tree-Sit; Midnight Matt Released From Jail Around Midnight
Follow the synchronicity.
Matthew Dodt, 53,aka "Midnight Matt", who defended himself with a camping knife from tree invasion in his tree in People's Park only to wind up in Santa Rita Jail, was released shortly before midnight Monday, according to a releasing officer at the jail.
He served 61 days in Santa Rita and 91 days in the tree. The synchronicity is in there somewhere.
The case against him, which began as attempted murder, then assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a police helmet, has shrunk to aiming a laser at University police—in the final days of a muddled tree-sit protest in the park.
The prosecution's case collapsed when the stabbing victim flouted a subpoena to testify Monday morning at Manuel Wiley Courthouse in Oakland. One of the victim's close friends—contacted later in the park and also a refusing witness—believes his friend may have been arrested.
University police logs show no such arrest and calls to key UCPD lieutenants have not, as of this writing, been returned.
Nevertheless, the two refusenik witnesses, who prefer not to be named, may emerge as unsung heroes in the case, even though they caused the case. One of them told me Monday that university police were "playing" the two to instigate the arrest of the tree-sitter. "They said things like, are you going to let those guys bring more heat down on the park."
Not only did the stabbing victim and another witness refuse, early on, to testify, but they have tried to make peace in the park, one of them donating mulch and labor recently to help Project Berkeley build a "peace garden," near "Camp Hate."
CampHate is the peace and philosophy-loving encampment presided over by Berkeley's Hate Man.
Alameda County Judge, Rhonda Burgess, tired of the prosecution's delays, denied one final delay, noting that the case had passed the sixty day mark which requires a defendant be brought to trial in sixty days.
"You had plenty of time to present your case," the judge scolded the prosecutor. "Your witness was subpoenaed two weeks ago."
Dodt refused to plea bargain—according to his friends. Not considered a flight risk, he was released on his own recognizance.
He must return to court Mar. 18th, 9 a.m. to face the laser aiming charges which his attorney, C. Zadik Shapiro, says could carry a 6 months to a year sentence. He has served 60 plus days.
According to Dodt’s volunteer attorney, “We are glad that the District Attorney did the right thing and dismissed the case. Now Matt will be released and do what he likes to do—work for a better community and a better world."
But will that better world include Dodt's return to his tree? He has a decade long history working with SF's Coalition to end homelessness, tried to include assistance to the homeless among the tree-sit demands, and might want to protest again.
A close friend, who has been in touch with Matt in jail, says that he has much on his mind, including finding new housing (he previously had shared housing in Oakland) and will not be making any statements for at least a few days.
Zachary Running Wolf Brown, 47, who organized the People's Park tree-sit protest, would like to get his number one sitter back in a tree in the park, although not necessarily the original one which got a thorough pruning the night Dodt was arrested.
Running Wolf has been hard at work constructing new platforms for the sit, he has said.
As the stabbing shows, the tree-sit in the park never was understood or accepted in the park, where UCPD never lost an opportunity to blame the sit for increased police patrols and citations in the park.
Then there was the inherent problems with the core demands of the protest, a hodgepodge of complaints, which grew after a District 7 councilman's calls for park reform, were rejected by voters. See "Up a Limb: Trying to Understand Latest People's Park Tree-Sit," Nov. 30, 2010, the Planet, for a full account.
Perhaps as the park anticipates the warmth of spring and looks forward to its 42 year anniversary celebration April 24, featuring speakers and Indy bands, we are headed for some Rodney King moments.
Ted Friedman has lived a half block from People's Park for 35 years.
The Richmond City Council voted Tuesday night not to continue with plans to develop an Indian casino at Point Molate after more than six years of back-and-forth about development of the former Navy base.
The council members voted 5 to 2 to in favor of a motion by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin to discontinue discussion of the casino, with Councilmen Jim Rogers and Nathaniel Bates dissenting.
Developer Upstream Point Molate LLC, which has been working on the project with the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians since 2004, now has 120 days to propose a non-gaming development at the site.
Original plans called for the 412-acre piece of shoreline property to be cleaned up and turned into a complex featuring a casino, hotel, convention center, performing arts center, entertainment venues, retail space, tribal government center, and housing.
McLaughlin laid out 12 reasons why she moved to oppose further discussion of the casino, including a nonbinding advisory vote that was passed in November in which 58 percent of the city's residents said they would oppose the gaming proposal.
McLaughlin also said studies have linked casinos to increased crime, increased problem gambling, and overall economic loss.
She said that locally marketed casinos don't lead to net financial gains because local residents spend money on gambling that would have been used for other services.
Other council members questioned whether jobs would really go toward improving Richmond's 17 percent unemployment rate and putting its parolees to work.
"If you had this beautiful new hotel, would you put a guy who just got out of prison in the rooms cleaning?" Councilman Courtland Booze said. "Think about it."
He and several other council members also said they respected the democratic process and wanted to honor the wishes of residents who support development without a casino.
The developers, however, have argued the $1.7 billion resort would not be profitable without a casino acting as a central draw. They also said the casino was needed to fulfill the city's mandate that the project be a job-creating economic engine for the city.
"Building homes does not create jobs after the homes are finished," Upstream LLC spokesman Jim Levine said.
The casino project would create an estimated 17,000 permanent jobs and 1,600 to 1,700 temporary jobs, according to its proponents.
Members of the City Council and of the public have questioned those figures.
Tuesday's decision could lead to a protracted legal battle, the dissenting council members pointed out, because millions of dollars have already been spent developing the project.
Michael Derry, CEO of the Guidiville Pomo Indians, said the tribe originally entered into negotiations with the city with the understanding that officials wanted to work with developers to build a casino.
Their agreement required the city to negotiate in good faith, and if the tribe can prove the city did not intend to follow through on the project, it could be entitled to compensation for million of dollars already invested in the casino plan, Derry said.
On Thursday, April 14th at 6:00 PM in the City Council Chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, there will be a special joint meeting of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) to consider issues related to the Branch Libraries Projects. The LPC will consider whether or not to approve the demolitions of the South and West Branch Public Libraries. (The West Branch is a Structure of Merit, and both buildings are potentially historic under California law.) The ZAB will consider whether or not to grant use permits for the construction of new libraries at these locations and whether or not to certify the Final Environmental Impact Report concerning these projects.
The meeting agenda and staff report will not be made public until three to five days before the meeting takes place. Since the fourth and fifth day before the meeting occur on a weekend, this probably means that the agenda and staff report will be available on Monday, April 11th, three days prior to the meeting.
However, in order for correspondence from the public to be included in the packet mailed to LPC and ZAB members, it must be received by noon, Thursday, April 7th, seven days before the meeting. Correspondence received by 5:00 PM, Tuesday, April 12th will be put online for LPC and ZAB members to view. Letters may be submitted at the meeting up until these agenda items close. At this time, protocol for members of the public to speak at the joint meeting has not been announced. For more information, please check these links.
It’s common today to date the beginnings of progressive politics in Berkeley to “The Sixties”. But leftist activism and idealism on the local scene date back at least half a century earlier.
1911 seemed to be an early watershed year for social and political reform in Berkeley. In October, California adopted voting rights for women, with strong support from much of the Berkeley community.
And in a separate election that April Berkeley voters sent to City Hall a Socialist Mayor and “champion of working men and women”, shocking the political establishment that was used to running the city in the name of “good government” but also, tacitly, for the benefit of local business and real estate interests.
The story of that Mayor—J. (Jackson) Stitt Wilson—is the subject of a small and very interesting exhibit on display through April 24, 2011 at the Central Berkeley Public Library. This is the Centennial of his victory.
Stephen Barton, a long time City of Berkeley employee and housing expert who currently works for the Rent Stabilization Board, put together the exhibit from his personal collection of Wilson memorabilia and research, as well as materials found at the Berkeley Historical Society.
Barton has been interested in Wilson for years and felt the centennial of the election would be a good occasion to try to bring renewed attention to an intriguing figure from Berkeley’s past.
The exhibit includes speeches, newspaper articles, photographs and other items outlining both Wilson’s career as a political and social activist and his family life.
It’s on display in the old lobby of the Central Berkeley Library. Go in the present main entrance, upstairs one floor, and towards Shattuck Avenue until you move into the old building; the exhibit is in wooden and glass cases in the center of the lobby space.
There are also some exhibit materials that can be viewed at any time from the sidewalk in glass cases fronting the old library entrance from Kittredge.
Canadian by birth, Wilson had moved to the United States at the age of 20 and came to Berkeley by way of Illinois where he went to college at Northwestern. By 1911 he had lived locally for ten years and had attracted attention when he ran for Governor in 1910 as a Socialist, winning 12 percent of the vote.
In the election for Mayor, Wilson defeated establishment Mayor Beverly Hodgehead—characterized by the Berkeley Gazette as the candidate of “the once-powerful ring”—and promoted a string of reforms. He won six of the then eight electoral districts in town, in what the Berkeley paper termed a “sweeping and general” victory.
The more conservative of the candidates, Hodgehead, handily won the “Southeast District” and “Telegraph-Bancroft District” (student voters weren’t a factor then), while Wilson carried all the other neighborhoods, piling up his biggest majorities in West and South Berkeley. In West Berkeley he won 612 votes to Hodgehead’s 123.
Totals reported a few days after the election gave Wilson 2,749 votes to 2,468 for Hodgehead. “A whole lot of people lined up for Wilson as a socialist, many more for Wilson as a man, and Hodgehead’s old-time opponents helped out”, one newspaper article reported after the election, calling Wilson a “magnetic speaker.”
The campaign had been a whirlwind affair. In those days election campaigns didn’t start years in advance, but often just weeks or a month or two before the voting. Wilson’s first big public campaign event was, in fact, a speech at Berkeley High School just three weeks before election day.
His victory drew national attention. He was the first Socialist to be elected mayor of a California city.
“While Stitt Wilson was being carried on the shoulders of men who had forgotten their dignity in the enthusiasm of victory, the telegraph wires were flashing the announcement of that victory across the continent. It did not stop there, for Stitt Wilson is widely known in Europe. His name is a household word in parts of England and Wales”, the Gazette reported.
The win set off jubilation in Downtown Berkeley streets. “Men threw their hats in the air and danced and yelled when the result of the election was announced. They carried the victorious candidate on their shoulders from the Gazette office to the Socialist headquarters at the Coffee Club and then back to Center street and Shattuck avenue where, surrounded by several thousand cheering citizens, Wilson was forced to address the throng.”
“Standing in an automobile, Wilson spoke to the admiring audience which greeted every statement with cheers of approval. He told them of his fight—for it was a fight; of his plans and what he hoped to accomplish for the people of Berkeley. He told them, as he had explained during the entire campaign, not to expect a revolution of affairs, as such was impossible, and he reiterated his promises to do all in his power to carry out the provisions of the charter.”
In a statement published in the Gazette two days after the election, Wilson wrote:
“To all the citizens irrespective of your relation to me in the election past, I wish to say, that I made no fight for mere office, and I am not in the mood of a victor in a political game. I feel the sense of responsibility and the burden of municipal affairs that you have placed upon me. From now until I assume the office I intend to familiarize myself with all matters concerning the city, and to give my mind to the program that lies before us. And after the first of July when I enter upon my duties as major of the city, I shall give my time and energy with devotion and enthusiasm to serve our beloved Berkeley.”
Wilson stood for public ownership of utilities, and would battle PG & E during his term in office. He was a strong advocate for tax reform, arguing in 1911, “the wealth the individual creates should go to the individual. The values which are created by the social body by its very sociality should go to the social body.”
“If we should personify the city or state we would say that this Social Mother, in whose household we all live, needs streets and sewers for us all; schools for all our children; peace officers and fire fighters; and social administrators for all these affairs. She, the city, provides or ought to provide social necessities, public utilities, communal enjoyments and civic equipment for all the people. And to do these things she must have money. She must have her own purse. That purse must fill and refill from her own earnings. She has no need to be a pauper, or a beggar, or a thief…the City or state should be a queen in her own domain, living on her own legitimate earnings…taxation on land values.”
He argued for the principal that vacant land should be taxed at a higher rate, or perhaps in place of, buildings and improvements.
As Barton explains it, Wilson wanted to tax undeveloped land because “taxes on land value recapture value that is created by the community and the local government. That makes such a tax particularly fair and reduces any disincentive effects the tax might have on production of needed goods like housing, since the land is there and more cannot be produced.”
“At least not without filling in the Bay”, Barton adds half facetiously.
Wilson did not win public elective office again after his one term as Berkeley Mayor. He did not run for re-election (perhaps because one of his young sons died during his term in office, Barton speculates) and was unsuccessful in a later try to regain the office.
While he was Mayor he ran for Congress in 1912, garnering 40% of the vote. “In this nation the development of industry under the trusts and monopolies, is becoming ominous. No patriot can but view the situation with alarm; no lover of freedom but must feel resistance to the encroaching power of America’s plutocracy”, he told voters in that campaign.
In 1912 and 1914 he worked for unsuccessful ballot initiatives for property tax reform in California. In 1932 he ran for Congress again, managing a respectable showing against both Democratic and Republican candidates, but still losing.
(That election, in an era of Communist-baiting by the right, was marred by accusations that he hadn’t been a citizen when he served as Mayor. Wilson explained that the record of his 19th century naturalization as a United States citizen was in Chicago, but couldn’t be found in court records there decades after he had emigrated from Canada when he sought to obtain the record in order to get a passport to travel to Europe after World War I. He later obtained another court confirmation of his citizenship.)
He was a spokesman and writer for a cause often termed “Christian Socialism”, which championed the idea that if one wanted to live by the values of Jesus, socialist principles were more relevant than pure capitalist ones. He was also, Barton notes, an advocate of “New Thought” that “saw all religions as sharing in truth and all people capable of being ‘in tune with the infinite’.”
In 1935 Wilson was an enthusiastic stump speaker for Upton Sinclair, who was running for Governor of California on the EPIC (End Poverty in California) platform. Wilson continued to be active in politics until his death in 1942.
When he died, August 28 of that year at the age of 74, the New York Times recalled him as “Berkeley’s Socialist Mayor of thirty years ago and lifelong champion of working men and women.”
Exhibit organizer Barton says he started out primarily interested in Wilson’s political life but also became intrigued with his family. He “sent his children to Berkeley public schools and, with his wife Emma, raised two very successful and independent—and based on the newspaper pictures very beautiful—daughters, which tends to show that his support for women's rights was not just theoretical”, Barton says.
The Wilsons lived at 1745 Highland Place in a brown shingle designed by Bernard Maybeck.
Daughter Violette Wilson went to Berkeley High School where she co-wrote and co-starred in a play with classmate Thornton Wilder. She went on to UC Berkeley but dropped out, saying she didn’t want to be a “toy wife” (perhaps this was because in that era there was an expectation that many college women would find husbands among their classmates.)
In 1915, Barton notes in materials included in the exhibit, she was photographed wearing riding pants to protest “dress slavery” arguing against laws that prohibited wearing the clothes of the opposite sex.
Violette had her own stage career and married actor and theater producer Irving Pichel, who then ran the Berkeley Playhouse but later went to Pasadena to direct the famed Playhouse there.
In addition to Violette and sister Gladys, the Wilsons also had three sons, all of whom died tragically. Jackson Stitt Wilson, Jr. died in 1903 at the age of 2 of diphtheria, as did his brother, Melnotte, at age 7 in 1912.
Their older brother William Gladstone Wilson attended UC Berkeley and would die in an airplane accident in World War I while serving in the armed forces.
In the first days of April, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment), the nuclear watchdog organization based in Livermore, dispatched a team to Washington to lobby for a host of targeted reductions in the US nuclear weapons budget. Tri-Valley CAREs (TVC) is working withthe Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a coalition of nuclear watchdogs from across the country that has scheduled 100 meetings with Members of Congress, committee staff, and the Obama Administration.
As TVC’s Executive Director Marylia Kelley explained, the goal is “to stop ill-advised proposals for nuclear weapons, power and waste…. We aim to prevent the so-called ‘modernization’ of US nuclear weapons and bomb plants. We will speak in opposition to the $36 billion in ‘loan guarantees’ that the Obama Administration’s 2012 budget requests for the nuclear industry and new nuclear power plants.”
TVC arrived in DC armed with a detailed report prepared by Dr. Robert Civiak, a former Program Examiner for DOE nuclear security activities at the Office of Management and Budget. Civiak’s report shows how nine specific reductions (and two critical program increases) can save taxpayers $1.15 billion. The following is a distillation of the Tri-Valley CAREs (TVC) eight-page report. (For the full report, see:http://www.trivalleycares.org/news/reports/FY2012%20BUDGET%20ANALYSIS-%20Civiak%20Report.pdf)
On February 14, the Department of Energy (DOE) released its FY 2012 budget request. It called for a massive increase in funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the DOE branch that oversees the US nuclear weapons complex and the atomic stockpile. This extraordinary request totally bypassed the usual scrutiny of the Office of Management and Budget. The OMB was cut out of the process months earlier, thanks to a political deal between President Obama and hawkish Republicans, led by Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona).
In an attempt to win Republican support for Senate ratification of the New START arms control treaty with Russia, Obama offered to increase spending on America’s nuclear weapons programs by 10 percent. When Kyl signaled that a $7 billion slab of pork wasn’t enough, the President upped the ante to $7.63 billion — a 20 percent increase over FY 2010. While the Senate eventually ratified the treaty, Kyl refused to sign on. Despite this betrayal, Obama has stuck with Kyl’s $7.63 billion request.
TVC argues that funding request “is more than $1 billion in excess of that needed to keep US nuclear weapons safe, secure, and reliable using the same ‘Stockpile Stewardship’ approach that has been used for the past two decades.” According to TVC, at least $3 billion could be saved by replacing Stockpile Stewardship with Stockpile Curatorship, “an engineering-based, surveillance and maintenance program” that replaces nuclear weapons parts only when necessary. (See: “Transforming the US Strategic Posture and Weapons Complex for Transition to a Nuclear Weapons-Free World” at: http://www.trivalleycares.org/new/reports/NWeapPosture=ComplexFNL.pdf.)
Nuclear Weapons Spending Was Lower Under Ronald Reagan
Under Obama and the Democrats, NNSA’s budget requests for its Weapons Activities has grown $1.27 billion over FY 2010 — at the same time the current US stockpile of warheads has been dramatically reduced by 80%. After accounting for inflation, the $7.63 billion request is 21 percent greater than Ronald Reagan’s largest nuclear weapons budget. (It is ironic that a Republican President was able to maintain a much larger nuclear stockpile at far less cost to the taxpayer.)
Obama’s budget would increase Weapons Activities spending by 4 percent a year (hitting $8.9 billion by2016). Those figures come straight out of the “1251 Report” — the November 2010 mandate where Sen. Kyl set out the price tag for his support of the New START treaty. The White House plans to mask these huge increases by quietly moving $2.2 billion from the Pentagon’s Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation account into DOE’s Nuclear Weapons Activities account over the course of four years.
Recommendations for Programs to be Reduced or Eliminated
Life Extension Programs
The budget requests $481million (an increase of 107 percent) for so-called Life Extension Programs (LEPs) — i.e., periodic modifications for seven types of nuclear weapons that the Nuclear Weapons Council plans to keep in the enduring stockpile. According to TVC, “life extension is a misnomer for a nearly complete rebuild and upgrade of a warhead system that is nowhere near the end of its life.” A typical LEP may see hundreds of changes made to a weapon’s design, including the addition of new components and even modification of its military characteristics.
TVC notes that funding for LEPs and other nuclear weapons upgrades is buried throughout the budget for Directed Stockpile Work — which is set to receive nearly $2 billion -- an increase of 26 percent. Additional funds are included in the Readiness Campaign, the Science Campaign, and elsewhere.
For example, NNSA is about half-way through a $4 billion-plus LEP on the submarine-launched W76 nuclear warhead. The “modifications” include adding a new “ground burst capability” that would be more destructive of buried targets than the previous air burst weapons. Another “Life Enhancement” would make it possible to mount the warhead on the more advanced D5 missile.
The FY2012 budget requests $257 million for the W76 LEPs to support a production of 1,200 W76s. But that was approved before the New START treaty was negotiated. Under New START, the US will deploy only 1,070 submarine warheads, including as many as 400 of the more powerful W88 warheads. So the budget keeps NNSA on a pace to upgrade many more W76 warheads than will be under New START.
TVC recommends: “Reducing funds for the W76 LEP by at least $150 million, slowing the pace of the program, and preventing NNSA from making unnecessary changes to W76 warheads, especially those that might soon be retired.”
The 2012 budget also requests funds for Development Engineering on a new LEP for the B61 “family of bombs.” The B61 comes in both strategic and tactical variants, including about 180 tactical B61 bombs currently based in Europe. Because many European leaders are calling for their removal, the European-based B61s may all be retired before or soon after the LEP is completed.
NNSA plans to modify the B61 “to enhance its margin against failure, while increasing safety and improving security and use control.” (What’s that? You assumed the current stockpile of atomic weapons was already engineered to assure safety, security and to minimize failure? Sorry to disappoint.) Yet, there is no evidence that any of these changes are necessary. NNSA’s own studies found that the plutonium and uranium parts of these weapons will last for at least another 60 years, without needing to be replaced.
Replacements are an ongoing part of the Stockpile Systems program. NNSA spent $114 million on the B61 in 2010 and proposes spending $224 million more on the B61 LEP in 2012 — in addition to its $72 request for B61 Stockpile Systems — for a total of $296 million. The total will rise to nearly $500 million by 2016.
TVC: “We recommend pausing the B61 LEP and rescoping it to exclude changes to plutonium or HEU parts; to change other components only if necessary to maintain the bombs at their current level of safety, security, and reliability; and to reduce the number of bombs modified in view of the potential removal of warheads from Europe.”
The FY 2012 budget also includes $51 million to begin a Life Extension Study for the W78 warhead, currently on Minuteman missiles. NNSA is considering developing a substitute for both the W78 and the submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) W88 warhead. The changes would, in effect, create a brand-new warhead. Congress voted to reject development of new warheads when it denied funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead Program in 2008.
TVC: “We recommend saving $50 million by suspending the W78 LEP study, until NNSA has better informed Congress of its plans and the potential for development of a new warhead.”
The Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility Replacement -- Nuclear Facility
The Nuclear Facility of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building Replacement Project (CMRR- NF) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is the third phase of a major project to replace plutonium-testing operations and expand pit production capabilities. NNSA estimates the Nuclear Facility will cost $3.7-5.9 billion.
The budget requests an additional $1.35 billion for CMRR-NF for 2013-2016, but the facility is not scheduled to reach full operations until 2023 — by which time it will be grossly oversized for a weapons stockpile that will likely be much smaller than it is today.
The main plutonium facilities at LANL in Technical Area 55 (TA-55) have been extensively upgraded, with the most recent project completed in 2009. NNSA has the capacity to build 20 plutonium pits for nuclear weapons per year at that facility, which is sufficient.
TVC: We recommend cutting $250 million from the request for CMRR-NF and using the remaining funds to plan for a much smaller facility or prepare for additional upgrades to existing facilities if necessary to satisfy safety and security requirements.
The Uranium Processing Facility
The budget requests $160 million — a 70% increase — to continue the design of a Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, TN. The budget requests an additional $1.24 billion for 2013-2016 to complete the design and begin construction in 2014. NNSA’s estimate of the cost of the design has increased by more than 50 percent over the past year, to $529 million. NNSA estimates the total cost of the project will be $4.2-6.5 billion.
NNSA’s plan does not fully account for anticipated reductions in the size of the nuclear weapons stockpile by the time the facility is projected to begin operations in 2024. The UPF is much larger than necessary and it might not be needed at all. NNSA could continue operating other existing facilities.
TVC: “We recommend cutting $100 million from the request for UPF and using the remaining funds to plan for a much smaller facility or prepare to upgrade existing facilities if necessary to satisfy safety and security requirements.”
Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities -- Operation of Facilities
NNSA’s budget requests $1.485 billion for Operation of Facilities in 2012 -- an increase of 11 percent over 2010 and 29 percent over 2008. NNSA claims that it needs this large increase because its infrastructure has been chronically underfunded. This claim persists even after Congress has provided over $1.5 billion in funding over the past eight years for a Facilities and Infrastructure Recapitalization Program. Moreover, the weapons complex should be shrinking in size as the number of nuclear weapons supported declines. We believe the increase in this budget line is excessive and directly results from the political deal making that set the top line funding for this year’s budget.
TVC: “We recommend freezing the budget for Operation of Facilities at the 2010 funding level, which is still 16 percent higher than it was under in 2008, under George Bush’s Administration. That would be a reduction of $150 million from the Administration’s request.”
Weapons Dismantlement and Disposition
The 2012 request for Weapons Dismantlement and Disposition is $57 million -- a decrease of 41 percent from 2010. The budget states that the number of dismantlements may decrease, because they will be working on “more challenging systems” this year. We believe that addressing systems that are more challenging is a reason to increase funding, rather than reduce the number of warheads dismantled.
TVC: “We recommend adding $50 million to the request for dismantlement, which would represent an increase of 11 percent from 2010.”
The Kansas City Plant
Construction has begun on a new facility to replace the Kansas City Plant (where NNSA manufactures most non-nuclear components) with a new facility 10 miles from the current site. Construction is estimated to cost $700 million, not including most of the specialized equipment.
Funding for equipment is included in the budget, but NNSA has not requested funds for construction. Instead, NNSA has arranged for the private sector to build the plant and has agreed to lease it for 20 years at a cost of $1.2 billion — but NNSA has no appropriated funds for the purpose as is required by law. The lease payments will appear in future budgets after NNSA occupies the plant.
TVC: “We recommend that NNSA withdraw from its contract to lease the new facility and remain in its existing facility, as we believe a new facility is not justified. Remaining in the existing Kansas City Plant, until it is no longer needed to support a shrinking nuclear weapons stockpile, is the most cost effective option for this year’s budget and in the long run.”
Gar Smith is Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal and co-founder of Environmentalists Against War (www.envirosagainstwar.org)
NUCLEAR WEAPONS FUNDING BY LABORATORY AND PRODUCTI0N FACILITY
(Dollars in Millions: FY 2012 Appropriation)
Los Alamos National Laboratory $1,594,000,000 (19.5% increase)
Sandia National Laboratory $1,239,000,000 (25.3% increase)
Lawrence Livermore National Lab $1,091,000,000 (9.2% increase)
Y-12 Production Plant $831,000,000 (23.3% increase)
Kansas City Production Plant * $545,000,000 (26.5% increase)
Pantex Assembly Plant $645,000,000 (16.15 increase)
Washington Headquarters ** $563,000,000 (178.7% increase)
Other Sites $1,122,000,000 (-4.2% decrease)
* Omits funds to build a new home for the Kansas City Plant.
** Funds for Headquarters will be distributed to the sites over the course of the year, further augmenting the site-by-site increases.
PROPOSED BUDGET CHANGES AND SAVINGS
The following table summarizes how nine program cuts and two increases would save more than $1 billion, without sacrificing the safety, security, or reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile.
W76 Life Extension Program - $150 million
B61 Life Extension Program - $180 million
W78 Life Extension Program - $50 million
Chemistry and Metallurgy Research
Replacement -- Nuclear Facility - $250 million
Uranium Processing Facility - $100 million
Inertial Confinement Fusion Campaign/
National Ignition Facility - $300 million
Other Campaigns - $200 million
Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities –
Operation of Facilities - - $150 million
National Security Applications - $20 million
Weapons Dismantlement and Disposition + $50 million
The Kansas City Plant + $200 million
TOTAL SAVED: $1,150 million
"Frances Dinkelspiel on berkeleyside.com tells us about BUSD's new plan to increase security at Berkeley High School."
"Over 200 Berkeleyans volunteer to serve on our "citizen government" of 35 city commissions. Periodically the City Council seeks to reduce their role. Carolyn Jones says in the San Francisco Chronicle that a new period has arrived."
Spending the first part of last week in Washington D.C., and the latter part in Berkeley, I was charmed to see that ornamental cherry trees were coming into bloom in both places on almost exactly the same schedule.
Last week—Tuesday, March 29 to be precise—was “peak bloom” for the famed cherries around the Tidal Basin in Washington, and a few days later when I walked the Berkeley campus during my lunch hour, our cherries were similarly laden with blossoms and bees.
Washington, of course, has more cherry tree nostalgia and tradition. The most prominent plantings around the Tidal Basin turn 100 next year, in 1912. They were a gift from Japan, the second such gift, actually. The first shipment was destroyed by the Department of Agriculture when the trees were found to be infected with insects and diseases.
The second time everyone got it right and cherries have been an iconic fixture of the Capitol environs ever since. The trees became so hallowed there was even a vehement protest and picket against construction of the Jefferson Monument because of fears that the expansive structure would eliminate too many of the cherry plantings.
These days there’s a popular cherry blossom festival in Washington centered on the Tidal Basin. Traffic is rearranged, entertainment provided, and thousands come out, even in inclement weather, to stroll the basin perimeter and other plantings. Every stage in the development of the cherry flowers is carefully chronicled and posted on-line so locals can time their visits to fit with “peak bloom.”
Last year, high tide coincided with the cherry blossoms so I saw many of the white-burdened trees with their gnarled roots bathed—or perhaps drowned—in Potomac water. This year, the water was well below the basin rim.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, set low in groves of old and new cherries next to the water, is a particularly spectacular place to admire the trees.
Our local scene is not so well endowed with ornamental cherries or cherry events. Although Berkeley historically had a large Japanese-American community, part of which survives today, our town has no such public cherry ceremonial and I’m not sure it could, given our considerably more scattered plantings.
But we do have a cherry history, too. Orchards of fruiting cherries were scattered around Berkeley in the 19th century, producing both commercially sold and privately picked, fruit. They were apparently successful enough. I’ve come across a number of old newspaper articles mentioning particular notable orchards.
They must have been very pretty in their time. All, of course, have long since succumbed to subdivision and development. I occasionally wonder if somewhere in Berkeley there might still be an old orchard cherry or two, a century or more old, hanging on in a backyard.
Cherry Street in the Elmwood, parallel to College Avenue, lies on the former ranch of John Kelsey, who did have cherry orchards among other fruit and ornamental plantings. I’ve heard a story—although I’ve never seen definitive documentation—that it was once lined with flowering Japanese cherries, and that they were cut down during World War II.
Today, there are a few older cherries standing on Cherry Street, along with younger specimens and some other flowering trees. But from their size and character, I doubt the older ones date back to the War.
The larger groupings of contemporary flowering cherries in Berkeley seem to be mainly on the UC campus. Some date back to the 1950s and 60s when Clark Kerr encouraged the planting of flowering trees.
One such venerable cherry survives by the Chavez Center dining terrace, south of Sather Gate. It’s probably about 50 years old, the same age as the building. It used to be part of a small grove, but all its companions have died and it now keeps company with a sapling redbud and a pink flowering peach.
Most other flowering cherries on campus are younger. There’s a fine group in a triangle of landscaping between California Hall and Doe Library, and other bright bosque of bloom northeast of Haas Pavilion, near the Brutus Hamilton Memorial. A third can be found north of Zellerbach Hall near the Korean Veterans Memorial.
Most of these larger plantings are due to the efforts of campus landscape architect Jim Horner. In recent years he’s been planting mainly the Yoshino variety on campus, a popular near-white variety that’s well represented among the Washington cherries as well.
In the 1930s a group of Japanese alumni of the University of California gave the campus materials for a Japanese-style garden that was created along Strawberry Creek north of the Valley Life Sciences Building.
The formal elements are long since vanished from this location, but I can’t help but think there must have been some flowering cherries in the mix. There’s one surviving thicket of flowering quince that puts on a late winter bloom in this area.
Off-campus in Berkeley I’m not sure if there are any large clusters of flowering cherries today, although of course I haven’t patrolled the whole city looking for them. There’s one big flowering cherry along Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, near the corner of Allston, in the old City Hall grounds.
This is an amusing tree because, as trees of the urban forest often do, it has sent a single major root off in search of water. You can see that root, nearly the thickness of the trunk, poking out horizontally just above ground level.
The tree stands on the edge of a grove that contains several memorial plantings. Was it a memorial itself, or simply decorative? I don’t know.
As I went around Berkeley on errands in the past week and kept a lookout for cherries, I was surprised to see that there are more in use as street trees than I thought, and quite a number of them seem recently planted, usually in ones and twos.
That means Berkeley may be in for something of a flowering cherry resurgence in coming years, although we still don’t have the large allees and banks of cherry plantings that make places like Washington D.C. so spectacular in early spring.
For more about the Washington Cherry Trees:
Do you love love love Cheese Board pizza? Is your idea of heaven standing in line for a slice and then eating it picnic-style with friends on the grassy strip down the middle of North Shattuck in what’s called “The Gourmet Ghetto” in the New York Times Style Section?
Well, think again, because the clueless merchants of North Shattuck are scheming to make it illegal.
Or maybe it’s not actually you and your lunch buds that they’re out to get, but if equal protection is still the law of the land you’ll have to be on the radar too if they have their way.
(Please note: we do NOT include the Cheese Board among the clueless, but some of their neighbors on the other hand…)
Here’s the story:
On Monday I was imprudent enough to go to the Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee (sorry, Governmental Affairs Committee) meeting on their proposed Sit-Lie Ordinance. This kind of thing would be bad for my blood pressure, if I had high blood pressure, which fortunately I don’t.
According to the press release that announced the meeting, the ordinance, “which has yet to be written, will most likely ban sitting or lying on sidewalks of commercial districts within the city during regular business hours. It is likely to be at least partially modeled on a similar ordinance in San Francisco that went into effect in January, 2011.”
Coming in late, I realized that my attendance was most likely superfluous, since the small meeting room was packed with a fine assortment of the most impressive defenders of the poor who work in Berkeley, and they were loaded for bear. The nervous organizers, justifiably fearing that they were outgunned, handed out printed rules banning oral questions from the audience. Instead, it was decreed that the chair (once the host at the now-defunct Downtown Restaurant, now the head of the meeting’s host committee) would read and summarize written questions after the invited panelists had finished their spiels.
The panel discussion went as planned. Councilmember Max Anderson as usual spoke eloquently for civil liberties and compassion, especially for the veterans among the street population.
Two panelists who work regularly with clients in the target population explained what they do and why they don’t think the Chamber proposal would have the desired effects.
Councilmember Linda Maio recounted a personal anecdote of dubious relevance about her encounter on Telegraph one night with a bunch of hostile youths who left litter behind when they moved on when asked (though one of them did go back to clean up when she scolded them.).
Roland Peterson, Executive Director, Telegraph Business Improvement District and ·John Caner, Executive Director, Downtown Berkeley Business Improvement District explained why their employers wanted a new sit/lie law. Peterson spoke glowingly of the wonderful results Santa Cruz has had with a similar ordinance. None of this was a surprise.
Questions were read, having been summarized and de-fanged, by the chair. One query, from poor people’s attorney Osha Neumann, asked why merchants from Downtown and Telegraph were pushing these laws now since the city’s Economic Development department reports revenues for these districts showed the smallest decline of all business districts in Berkeley in recent years. Peterson said that his employers were concerned that their revenues hadn’t increased. (Evidently the bad news about the global recession hasn’t yet penetrated to all parts of Teley.)
Another question asked if rules banning sitting and lying on sidewalks would apply equally to all groups, disabled veterans as well as disrespectful youths. Answer: Yes.
So what does all this have to do with eating Cheese Board pizza on North Shattuck? Eventually, since I made a tiny fuss about the controlled questions, the chair ruled that I would be allowed to ask the only spoken question, at the very end of the meeting.
My question: whose idea was this anyhow? (I don’t think I said whose dumb idea, but I should have.)
Everyone looked around the room for the culprit. Eventually, a woman sitting in the back row raised her hand, indentifying herself as Heather Hensley, Executive Director of the North Shattuck Association. She allowed as how some merchants in her group wanted a sit/lie law to be enacted because they were worried about declining business.
Fine, but they should be aware that such a law must constitutionally be applied to everyone. BOSS employee Winston Burton jocularly brought up the possible fate of the median pizza-eaters, but the point he raised is a real one.
Laws like this are either applied unequally only to unsightly sitters, risking constitutional lawsuits, or they catch tired old ladies and small children sitting down in their net as well, and that’s bad for business. The dread word “boycott” was muttered sotto voce by critics in the audience as the meeting broke up.
The rosy reports from Santa Cruz are simply fictitious. I’m in Santa Cruz two or three times a month, and almost always make a visit to Bookshop Santa Cruz on the main drag. Sorry, Virginia, there are still surly uglified youth sitting around there, along with plenty of possibly homeless beggars asking for spare change, just like in Berkeley, San Francisco and almost anywhere you go in these troubled times. Drug dealing and the occasional murder are still obvious problems in Santa Cruz, including downtown, as reported from time to time in Bay City News stories I get.
And meanwhile the wrong people get harassed, just as they would be in Berkeley
Here’s how Christopher Krohn, a former Santa Cruz mayor and councilmember, described the Santa Cruz law in an email:
“It is another in a long line of anti-homeless, trying-to-appease-business-community (don't just stand there, do something!) type of wrong-headed measures/traps which electeds often get ensnared into. It is the same kind of thinking that also now has musicians standing with their backs to the street rather than backs to the business. This included Sophia, Isabel and Amelia when they played their violins in the bitter cold in December, instead of playing in a more sheltered area...they were warned by the "downtown hosts" not to play with backs against the wall.).
These Santa Cruz Youth Symphony musicians were playing Christmas carols to raise money for disaster relief. Two of them are his daughters, and also happen to be my granddaughters. Not to be deterred, some of the same young classical musicians did manage to get permits recently to play on the street to benefit the Japanese Red Cross, but the regs for street music made much harder than it needed to be.
Does this bring us around to the same old theme of “fiddling while Rome burns”? Berkeley merchants are wasting their time nattering on about the street scene while they should be attending to business in a very dicey economy.
When the Planet was in business selling ads to people like this (how glad I am to be free of that burden!) North Shattuck retailers told our sales people that they couldn’t afford ads because all their money went to the high rents they paid to be in such a lovely area. Black Oak Books, smarter than the rest, moved out because they couldn’t afford to pay $17,000 every month for rent.
Folks, it’s time to get real. Berkeley businesses have got to stop blaming the victims of the economic collapse for their own problems. This kind of behavior negates the whole “Buy Local Berkeley” campaign—why should shoppers like me support merchants whose best marketing strategy seems once again to be targeting the homeless and downtrodden?
We’re part of a group of ten or more that eats dinner at Cha Am on Shattuck and Cedar every Friday, has done this for years now. Yes, there is a polite elderly lady who sits on that block asking for money that we always pass on Friday nights, but she’s no reason to stop going there. On the other hand, if the North Shattuck merchants are really behind the latest sit/lie push, we might want to take our business elsewhere.
And don’t even get me started on the “we’re afraid to go downtown” crowd…”
Two weeks ago, the Berkeley Daily Planet published a commentary by Charles Siegel entitled, “BRT, NIMBYs, and the New York Times” (March 22, 2011). It is helpful that Mr. Siegel offered readers such an illustrative example of how BRT supporters have distorted the facts in an attempt to discredit BRT opponents in Berkeley. Their arguments could be regarded as merely humorous if they had not been used in such a vicious and manipulative manner during the campaign for BRT. And it certainly is clear from Siegel’s writing why he and other BRT zealots repeatedly refused offers to debate this issue in public. They would have been humiliated if they had done so.
Am I overstating the case here? Hardly.
First, contrary to the implications in Charles Siegel’s commentary, the New York Times article that was the original impetus for this current debate in the Planet barely mentions BRT in Berkeley. That article is almost entirely concerned with a controversial bike path in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and a proposal to put wind turbines offshore in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The writer, Elisabeth Rosenthal, added BRT to her article to try to add more substance to her thesis, but she handled the complex BRT issue in a very superficial and trivial way. Here are all of the substantive references to the East Bay BRT proposal in her piece:
“In Berkeley last year, the objections of store owners and residents forced the city to shelve plans for a full bus rapid transit system (B.R.T.), a form of green mass transit in which lanes that formerly served cars are blocked off and usurped by high-capacity buses that resemble above-ground subways.”
“And in Berkeley, store owners worried that reduced traffic flow and parking could hurt their business.”
Yes, that’s it: only two sentences. (There is also one rhetorical question at the end of the article that is unanswered: “So what will happen to…the Berkeley B.R.T.?”)
It should be clear to the readers here that the NYT writer did not do due diligence when investigating this issue. It seems likely that she simply read the heavily-biased accounts put forth by AC Transit, or, at most, contacted one or more of the rabidly pro-development groups, such as TransForm, to get an opinion that matched her pre-conceived conclusion. In short, the author was advocating rather than reporting, and this should be acknowledged by Siegel—rather than implying as he does that this was an objective account.
What Charles Siegel Left Out
Even more important than Siegel’s misrepresentation about the NYT article, Siegel selectively omits a key passage from the article that seriously undercuts his own message about NIMBYs. The author states:
“Nimbyism is nothing new. It’s even logical sometimes, perhaps not always deserving of opprobrium. After all, it is one thing to be a passionate proponent of recycling, and another to welcome a particular recycling plant — with the attendant garbage-truck traffic — on your street. General environmental principles may be at odds with convenience or even local environmental consequences.”
In other words, it is perfectly understandable that people want to protect the quality of life in their own neighborhoods. And, it is important to stress that the difference is between competing efforts to protect the environment—rather than the way this issue has been unfairly represented by Siegel and others as a battle between pro-environment crusaders and anti-environment reactionaries.
But just like this NYT writer who overlooked things about BRT that did not fit into her neat hypothesis, Charles Siegel chooses to overlook this critical passage that acknowledges the reasonableness of people organizing to protect the environments in which they live. Instead, Siegel launches into an extended diatribe about how utterly contemptible so-called Nimbys are. This is a perfect example of the manner in which the BRT zealots have twisted information to present their point of view.
* * *
Greenwashing damaging development practices
Also, I must point out the misleading characterization of BRT systems in the NYT piece. Calling something “green” magically confers social and environmental benefits to a project—no matter what it actually accomplishes. That trick is well known to developers and planners now, and it should be called out. “Green development” is the modern-day equivalent of the draconian “urban renewal” of the late 1950s. Both are simply planning terms meant to disguise the real intentions of the planners: the destruction of existing neighborhoods and their replacement with new higher-density buildings that offer sizeable profits to developers.
That is why it is important to talk in specifics when evaluating development projects like BRT, to determine exactly how the quality of life in an area would be impacted by their implementation. Falling back on generalities (like “green” and “sustainable”) allows developers to avoid examining these important considerations—and allows NYT writers and people like Charles Siegel to write misleading articles.
A bus by any other name is still…a bus!
I note that the NYT writer helps perpetuate another misconception about BRT when she claims thatthese systems “resemble above-ground subways.” This is silly; first of all, by definition, a subway is a system that is “under ground.” The primary reason it operates as efficiently as it does is that it does not have to compete at all with surface traffic and other activity. Another version of this claim is the assertion that BRT systems are equivalent to “light rail lines on rubber tires.” The intention is to make it sound like they are equivalent to a transit system which people actually like to ride—as is the case with light rail systems. Don’t be fooled. A bus is still a bus, whether it has its own lane or not. Bus travel is always more uncomfortable and jarring to passengers than light rail is, and putting a bus in its own lane does not change this reality.
In fact, I challenge public transit riders to take a ride on one of AC Transit’s enormously uncomfortable Van Hool buses, and then ride on BART, a MUNI streetcar, or even a PCC historic streetcar on the “F” line in San Francisco, and compare the experiences. Anyone who does so will easily be convinced that BRT is nothing like a light rail line or a subway—not even close. It will still be a bus line, sure as night follows day, with all of the inherent limitations and discomforts that buses entail. You can call a fish a bird as often as you like, but that does not make it suddenly grow wings and feathers.
Let’s take a tour
Now, join me on a tour through Charles Siegel’s commentary. Fasten your seat belt, though, because we are in for a bumpy ride through logic wrought with potholes as big as refrigerators and slippery statements that will make your head spin out.
After offering his selective account of the NYT article and claiming that the only thing that stopped BRT here was the complaints of a few NIMBYs, Siegel then asserts:
“Anyone who attended the meetings about BRT in Berkeley and heard the people involved knows that the New York Times is right and the Daily Planet opinion piece is wrong.”
This is a good example of the intentionally misleading communication that has characterized the BRT zealots’ approach from the very start of the controversy. First of all, it is not true on its face, because everyone certainly would not agree with Charles Siegel’s conclusion. In fact, the reality is almost entirely the opposite of Siegel’s assertion here: the vast majority of people at any public meeting on BRT were strongly opposed to the plan for legitimate environmental, economic, land use, and efficiency reasons.
In fact, Mayor Bates himself flatly contradicts Siegel’s assertions about public opinion on BRT. At a meeting of the BRT Policy Steering Committee in October 2009, Bates made the following remarks:
“I think it’s pretty clear that the public reaction to the [BRT] plan was extremely negative, almost across the board. I don’t think they found too many people other than the planners who like it. It’s sort of embarrassing when staff comes up with a proposal that’s almost dead on arrival...”
It is important to note that Mayor Bates has been one of the most vocal backers of BRT in Berkeley, and he himself could not overlook that obvious truth about the wholesale public rejection of the plan. It is telling that Charles Siegel not only lacks this ability to admit the truth about BRT—but instead asserts exactly the opposite.
Siegel’s statement is also a good example of Black or White Thinking, a common logical fallacy. Most people who have passed high school English know the danger of making extremist statements, such as “Everybody knows…” “It is never the case…” “It is always true…”, etc. Apparently, Charles Siegel was absent from class when this issue was discussed—or he wasn’t paying very close attention.
Next, we read:
“BRT was supported by the two major environmental groups working for better transportation in our area, the Sierra Club and TransForm.”
Sadly, the Sierra Club has long since abandoned any pretense of objectivity in local political issues, and consistently supports any high-density development scheme favored by Mayor Bates—no matter now damaging it may be to the quality of life for residents in our city, and no matter how minimal and illusory the supposed environmental benefits it claims. It is enough to call a project “green” or “sustainable” to get the Sierra Club to act as a major cheerleader in its completion.
If you have any doubts about this, just look at the new buildings downtown like the hulking concrete Arpeggio, the sterile monstrosity Golden Bear center, the distinctly-ungardenlike Library Gardens, and the tree-and-open-space-free zone misnamed the Brower Center. The once-good name of the Sierra Club has been forever tarnished by its pandering to the developer-smitten establishment in Berkeley and its support for misguided projects that will plague our downtown for decades to come.
Besides that, the other group that Siegel mentions, TransForm, is recognized as a completely undemocratic organization that is primarily funded by pro-development groups to promote construction of high-rise residential buildings. This group regularly organizes outsiders to come into communities to try to manipulate their decisions about transit systems and development. TransForm routinely mischaracterizes its involvement with the communities it claims to represent—calling what it does “cooperative engagement”, when it is really coercion and manipulation. And its representatives routinely misrepresent the views of the public at regional and local meetings. (They actually do this so often that they ought to be called misrepresentatives.)
I challenged Joel Ramos, the community planner for TransForm, to attend at least one meeting with the community members in Berkeley if he was going to continue to talk about their beliefs, but he failed to do so. He also refused my request to debate him in public about BRT. You may have noticed that this a common behavior among BRT supporters—they always shy away from a fair fight in public, preferring instead to use one-sided forums to propagate their suspect values where they won’t be challenged in any way.
“BRT was supported by many individuals with a long history of environmental activism. Many supporters have degrees in city planning or transportation…”
Most readers will recognize the time-honored appeal to authority. If an authority says something, it must be accepted as true. The problem with that logic is that for any authority who that says “x” is true and not “y”, there is almost always another authority who says that “y” is true, and not “x”.
In fact, although Charles Siegel strenuously tries to deny it, this was the case in the BRT debates, too. There was powerful testimony offered by experts in transportation and land use in opposition to AC Transit’s BRT proposal. In such cases, it is important to examine the underlying motives of the spokespeople. Those experts who spoke against BRT did so as a matter of principle, rather than for economic gain or personal advantage—and that is why their evidence carried so much weight with the public.
Besides that, Charles Siegel is contradicting his own principle here, at least if we can believe what he wrote in his most recent self-published book, Unplanning: Livable Cities and Political Choice.
In his book, Siegel stresses that it is not wise to trust “top-down planning” efforts—such as, I might add, the East Bay BRT proposal—because those who develop them are almost always out of touch with the actual needs and conditions of local neighborhoods. As Siegel says:
“In recent decades, many of our greatest successes in urban design have been the result of political action, not of planning…and citizen-activists had to spend much of their time working against projects that city planners had proposed or approved.
The choice of how we live is not a technical problem to be solved by planners, it is a human issue that is a matter of personal and political choice.”
Siegel then goes on to recommend the imposition of “direct political limits on urban growth…that would reduce the need for planning and allow more individual choice and more local decision making.”
I could not agree more, and that is one of the primary reasons that I oppose BRT—which was developed in defiance of the wishes of local communities. Siegel should oppose it, too.
“BRT was opposed by Telegraph Ave. merchants and vendors who cared only about its effect on business.”
Here Charles Siegel employs another logical fallacy, that of oversimplification. It is, of course, true that business owners and vendors had legitimate concerns about maintaining their income, and what’s wrong with that? They need parking access for vehicles that carry goods, for one thing, a need that cannot be handled by public transit. And they understood the financial risks they would face if months or years of construction kept their customers away. But that is not all they considered. Many members of the business community understood that this BRT proposal would harm residents throughout the whole community, and they opposed it on those grounds, too.
Siegel then states:
“BRT was opposed by people in adjacent neighborhoods who cared only about its effect on traffic and parking in their own neighborhoods.”
I am one of the people living an adjacent neighborhood in the Southside, I know that many residents here care about the negative impacts that this project would have on the whole city, particularly its drain on scarce transportation resources that could be used more beneficially in other ways to increase transit use and decrease traffic congestion. I also had legitimate concerns about increased traffic, pollution, and parking problems throughout the entire Southside.
“BRT was opposed by people who were simply pro-automobile activists, complaining that it would take away lanes that they use for driving, making their auto trips take 10 or 20 seconds longer.”
Name-calling is never very useful, and there is no such thing as a pro-automobile activist, as far as I can tell. I could just as easily call Charles Siegel an anti-democracy advocate, or an AC Transit stooge, but such things serve no purpose other than to mislead people about the true issues, and to harden positions. Thus, Siegel’s approach is ultimately anti-educational and divisive. We need to come together to develop transit and transportation solutions that benefit everybody.
Now, regarding Siegel’s claim that BRT might make “auto trips take 10 or 20 seconds longer”—that is just ludicrous. Even partial lane closures on Telegraph Avenue have resulted in monumental back-ups that severely blocked traffic and access to businesses for hours and hours. And with a lane closure throughout the entire length of Telegraph Avenue—and beyond—similar back-ups would be unavoidable. That is exactly why AC Transit refused to do a pilot lane closure project to demonstrate the impact of cutting the traffic lanes on Telegraph from four (two in each direction) down to two. The public would have been furious, particularly trucks making essential deliveries to businesses and people needing to access health care facilities on Telegraph Avenue. !0 to 20 seconds longer? In your dreams, Charles.
“Finally, BRT was opposed by the usual suspects who make a career of being against everything proposed in Berkeley.”
This is one of the most pernicious statements in Siegel’s whole diatribe. The implication is that some people seem to enjoy standing up in opposition to the city council in Berkeley, and the Bates Machine. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is one of the most frustrating and humiliating experiences to try to speak up for the community in this town. Most people who do so are repeatedly subjected to baseless attacks from the establishment (similar to Charles Siegel’s comments here, actually) that typically make them never want to attend another council meeting or commission meeting again in their lives.
It is very easy to make this derogatory claim about citizen-activists, but you will notice that when Mayor Bates makes it, he never names names. We should all call the mayor to task whenever he levels this inaccurate charge in the future, as he most certainly will. It is one of his favorite spins on people who still have principles that he abandoned long ago. Primary among these principles is the support for democratic rights and public involvement on issues that affect us all.
“What do we usually call people like the majority of BRT opponents…who [as Siegel claims] opposed BRTout of pure self-interest, without thinking of the impact on the entire region or on the environment? These people are usually called exactly what the New York Times called them: NIMBYs.”
I have another word for them, one that Charles Siegel himself has recommended in his book: citizen-activists.
And regarding the pejorative term NIMBY, I think I have a useful way to evaluate it use.
In my book, anybody who calls another person a NIMBY undoubtedly is one, because—usually due to zoning protections and environmental laws—they will never face development projects in their own neighborhoods that will ruin their own quality of life. They, therefore, are the ultimate NIMBYs, and they should be publicly recognized as such.
* * *
Sadly, Charles Siegel and others are actually harming the cause of public transit by clinging to a dying project, BRT. This is like a triage doctor spending all of his time trying to save a comatose victim of a massive heart attack—when all around him there are people suffering from cuts, bruises, and broken bones that could be healed.
We need to use our transportation dollars on projects that have community support and will make a real difference in increasing transit use and decreasing automobile traffic on crowded corridors. BRT won’t do this at all. Instead, why don’t we work together to try to develop transit solutions that will?
Doug Buckwald is a long-time Berkeley resident who has examined public transit systems in Oakland, San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, Paris, Rome, Venice, Munich, and other cities. He rides public transit every day in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 1997 Berkeley repealed its ordinance prohibiting sitting and panhandling after an ACLU challenge. But the Downtown Berkeley Association, which initiated the ordinance, never stopped pining for some way to clear the streets of homeless people and panhandlers, whom they blame for a decline in retail sales, and is currently lobbying for an anti-sitting law similar to San Francisco’s.
Berkeley has panhandlers. But it also has hundreds of empty storefronts owned by landlords reluctant to rent at lower commercial rates, empty storefronts which burden a once-vibrant downtown. Commercial leases tend to be long, so locking into even three years at a lower rate is less appealing than taking a tax write-off for the previous, higher rate. Even a business like Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh Food, which won entrepreneur of the year and design awards, cited the inflexibility of the rental rate as the reason it closed in December after two and a half years.
There’s no political downside to stomping on the poor, and Mayor Tom Bates has the votes to criminalize sidewalk sitting. But before Berkeley sends another potentially pointless anti-poor ordinance through the courts, it makes sense to institute a retail vacancy fee on landlords who keep storefront locations empty for years, refusing to acknowledge the recession’s effect on merchants generally and the effect of empty storefronts specifically on a struggling commercial area.
Merchants can’t sidestep the recession any more than they can avoid paying mandatory fees to a misguided business association. But they can avoid the hypocrisy of blaming panhandlers by addressing the real burden on our commercial areas and supporting a retail vacancy fee. I’d much rather be annoyed by a panhandler now and then than continue losing businesses like the art house theater, the music store, and the ice cream parlor.
Carol Denney is a Berkeley musician, writer and citizen activist. This essay first ran as part of KQED's "Perspectives" series.
Dear Berkeley Neighbors:
We tried to save our local community post office on Sacramento St over the past two years.
we spoke out
we signed petitions
we attended meetings
We threatened to make more noise
we thought the issue of closing the office was finally resolved, but sad to say there seems to be nothing left to do-- very disappointed the message was not sent to those of us on the petition and/or who spoke at the meeting.
Instead we get this from someone else and the person at the PO does not even provide her phone or email. Does anyone know how to reach
Elma I. Ramirez
Manager, Consumer Affairs
United States Postal Service
Our only hope is that our beloved postmistress Eleanor Neal-- who is the BEST, most respectful and helpful PO employee--who always does the job asked with courtesy and support to all of her customers will be transferred to Station A PO on San Pablo.
If that does not happen I give up on the PO.
Frustrated at this news yet hopeful things will work out. The PO on Sacramento has been a community place and not only a PO.
Wonder what will happen to the building now. Anyone know?
I would like to thank Mayor Quan for reaching out to the various Oakland communities to hear what is on our minds and to help set her agenda. There is no doubt that there are many areas Oakland needs work on, including improving our school system, strengthening our police force and filling potholes. These all need attention and we feel those needs dearly, every day.
Less immediate but equally important to all of us, is the design of our small commercial streets and how live-able walking streets are made, preserved and enhanced. In North Oakland we have several streets and neighborhoods that bustle during the day and into the evening — I am speaking of Piedmont Avenue, Temescal, and College Avenue. It is in our small-neighborhood, vital interest to protect these areas and make sure that they continue to function as the local hubs that they are. People are drawn to them for their liveliness and vitality. Let there be no doubt —these are not shopping malls—these are real, living, small neighborhood places, that are fantastic to the tax roll and foster entrepreneurship.
In order to promote and protect these places, I would like to see 'walkability' become a specific topic of focus on Oakland's urban planning agenda, so that we can systematically start to understand the DNA of these places and be more intentional about building more like them. We need to move beyond 'pedestrian oriented' as one of many criteria to consider when we evaluate projects, and make 'walkability' THE central tenant of our thinking for these places: if you cannot enhance 'walkability' here in tangible ways, then you should take your traffic problems or, water and air quality solutions, to another --less residential-- location in the city or elsewhere.
To get to a specific example: why is it that the planning code has no teeth to prevent predatory retailing by Safeway on College Avenue?
For years now Safeway has insistently proposed, over the clear concerns of a vast majority of neighbors, to increase the size of their existing store by an additional 33,000 square feet over and above the adequate but antiquated, 22,000 square foot neighborhood store they currently have. Inside the proposed total square footage you could fit thirty-five 1,500 sf stores—such as the Yasai Market across the street from the current store. More importantly, all the proposed Safeway shopping would be done under one big roof, effectively eviscerating the pedestrian life of the street as people conveniently load multiple cartons of Cheerios into their cars from the covered parking lot. Who are we kidding here? Do we really think a big-box store—for the first time in history— will enhance the walkability of this neighborhood? I do not. This is an oversized retail bomb being dropped on a neighborhood by a corporation that sees an opportunity, and, sadly, the city has no efficient mechanism, and/or limited planning will, to protect the balance of small shops and the quality of the street that have taken years to build and that make it the unique, walkable neighborhood it is.
The current future of this and other similar walkable residential neighborhoods is unclear at best, if corporations can willfully graft their mega-store visions onto our small, local commercial communities. Mayor Quan should put in place an action plan that rigorously preserves and enhances walkable, vital commercial streets adjacent to residential communities, and that will incubate new ones. THIS will bring people to Oakland, and allow the city to evolve—in the near future— into the place we all know it can be.
Throughout the United States, pro-labor activists are beginning to realize that the right to collective bargaining—currently under assault—is intertwined with the right of employees to choose their union, free from fear and intimidation.
That’s why a long-overdue trial is taking place in the NLRB hearing room in downtown Oakland, where the Kaiser Permanente union election (October 7, 2010), the largest private-sector election in 70 years, faces a well-documented challenge from NUHW (National Union of Healthcare Workers).
In the first two weeks of the trial, Administrative Law Judge Lana Parke heard a great deal of convincing testimony about the climate of coercion and fear that pervaded the campaign. She framed the issue this way: “Kaiser, having committed unfair labor practices, SEIU having utilized the commission of these unfair labor practices at a significant point in the campaign—would that, in fact, have a deleterious effect on the employees’ right to choose, and freely, in the election?” (If 11.4% of employees who actually cast votes had changed their vote from SEIU to NUHW, NUHW would have been victorious.)
However, we wish to raise another question before the court, a question of law: How is it possible to hold a union representational election when the rules themselves, imposed by the employer, favor one union over the other?
We are not attorneys involved in the Case. We are pro-democracy writers and activists who believe that, from the outset, the Kaiser election was inherently flawed. Only by overturning the election can the NLRB restore due process for all workers who seek to change unions in order to control their own destiny in collective bargaining.
Here, then, is our argument.
I. The Argument
The outcome of the hearing must turn, not only on matters of fact—posters, flyers, e-mails, documents, dramatic eyewitness testimony—but on a fundamental matter of law as well. The key question is: were the rules under which the Services and Technical unit election was organized lawful or unlawful? Did union members cast their votes under terms set by the NLRB, or by Kaiser Permanente?
In his pivotal ruling on December 13, 2010, NLRB Administrative Law Judge William L. Schmidt found Kaiser guilty of violating the law when the corporation withheld scheduled raises, tuition reimbursements, and steward rights from Southern California professionals who voted in January 2010—by overwhelming margins—to decertify SEIU and join NUHW. Kaiser’s unilateral takeaways were “inherently destructive of the basic employee right to freely choose a bargaining representative,” Schmidt wrote.
Schmidt called attention to the status quo principle, which protects employees from employer threats and blackmail. He ordered Kaiser to pay employees raises with back pay and interest, to restore benefits, and to post public statements that such illegal actions will never happen again.
So crucial is the status quo principle to the outcome of the current trial, it deserves some reflection. It was not until 1962 that employees won the right to vote in union elections free of employer interference. Justices recognized that when employers (or employer-favored unions) can threaten the livelihood of voters according to how they chose to vote, union elections degenerate into fear and coercion. Owing to a pivotal Supreme Court ruling in 1962 (NLRB v. Katz) the NLRB guarantees that all workers have a right to choose a new, or better union without risking jobs, benefits, or protections. Union representational elections are supervised and run by the NLRB under NLRB rules.
Schmidt’s ruling is comprehensive and firm: “The duty to maintain the status quo imposes an obligation upon the employer not only to maintain what he has already given his employees, but also to implement benefits which have become conditions of employment by virtue of prior commitment and practice.”
“Terms survive not only the expiration of a contract, but also the nullification of a contract because of a change in bargaining representatives.” It is also unlawful “to tell employees otherwise.”
Not only acts, but verbal and written threats violate the law. As we shall see, that is exactly what Kaiser, and SEIU, did during the second Kaiser election of the summer and fall of 2010, this one involving more than 43,000 members of the S&T unit.
The status quo principle is truly pro-labor because it protects employees when they are most vulnerable to employer abuse of power. The courts and NLRB judges recognized that changing terms and conditions of employment is inherently destabilizing. The status quo rule allays the fears of employees in transition from non-union status to unionization, from contract to contract, from union to union. Hence, even when a contract expires, or becomes null and void, conditions and terms of employment remain in place until a new contract is bargained or an impasse in negotiations is declared.
UNLAWFUL ACTIONS TURNED INTO OFFICIAL POLICY
In the context of Schmidt’s ruling (including the many precedents to which he refers) we can now ask: To what extent, in how many ways, and with what impact, did Kaiser again flout the status quo rule after—after—Kaiser unlawfully withdrew raises and benefits from Southern California NUHW members?
Ben Chu is President of Kaiser’s Southern California Region. On August 3rd, 2010, he held a conference call with Kaiser employees. He informed the participants that they could lose their PSP bonuses if SEIU lost the election. The conference was set up to inform employees about the terms in the upcoming election. In direct contradiction to NLRB rules, Chu said that, while PSP bonuses would remain secure if SEIU won, the same bonuses would be subject to discretion of the employer if NUHW was victorious.
Immediately, SEIU became Kaiser’s accomplice in flouting the status quo principle. The headline on a large, colorful cardboard mailer read: “Breaking news. NUHW members face loss of PSP Bonus...It just keeps getting worse.” Not only did Kaiser impose a policy contrary to NLRB law, SEIU blitzed Kaiser’s employees with the “news” that they’d lose everything if they voted for NUHW. And both Kaiser and SEIU connected these policy statements to the actions taken by the corporation in January, when NUHW Southern California members were striped of previously contracted raises and stipends.
In late August, 2010 John Nelson, a Kaiser spokesperson, announced that NUHW members would not be eligible to receive raises. The raises to which he referred were contracted conditions and terms of employment. Nelson also linked this Kaiser policy to Kaiser’s illegal fait accompli.
Nelson’s policy statement was so widely disseminated, that the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE repeated his claim (August 31) without qualification, that “NUHW members are not eligible to receive those raises.”
SEIU had another field day. In a cardboard poster flyer, under a headline about “facts every Kaiser employee should know before we vote,” SEIU repeated the refrain that the terms and conditions of employment only apply to members of SEIU.
(We have observed and studied many elections in which employers, often with impunity, flout the status quo principle. But we have never seen an election in which a profoundly pro-labor principle, crucial to the future of collective bargaining, has been assaulted, not only by the employer, but by a union acting as the employer’s accomplice.)
On July 28, 2010, Beth D. Marcus, Executive Director of the SEIU-UHW and Joint Employer Education Fund, sent an official letter to the members of NUHW. It read in part: “Since you are no longer represented by SEIU-UHW...we regret to inform you that effective January 2011, you are no longer eligible for SEIU-UHW Education fund programs.”
On cue, SEIU seized the opportunity to blanket Kaiser facilities and S&T employees’ home mailboxes with glossy campaign flyers publishing the Marcus letter in full. Eager to confirm the inequality of the two unions, the large headline reads: “No education fund for NUHW Members at Kaiser.”
MICHELLE BUSEY: Michelle Busey is a registered nurse. She was Director of Education and Training for the Education Fund for 5 years. On March 17 she testified under oath about her activities during the election. Under the direction of Beth Marcus, Busey was instructed to inform participants in the fund that, “if SEIU-UHW did not win the vote, that the SEIU-UHW Education Fund would no longer be in existence, or be providing the services....We were given talking points in writing...that if NUHW won, they would no longer receive these services.”
The statements of Marcus, Chu, Nelson, and other top officers at Kaiser, were not private, personal, or isolated opinions, delivered from the sidelines. As the employer, with the power to hire, fire, promote and demote, Kaiser spoke with authority. When Kaiser speaks, employees listen, if not always by choice, at least as a matter of prudence. Kaiser’s rules of the election were all the more authoritative because of Kaiser’s posture of neutrality.
It was very clear that Kaiser announcements reflected a comprehensive statewide policy—that takeaways would be enacted throughout the 43,000-member S&T unit as well, should NUHW also win that election. Kaiser’s sword of Damocles hung over the entire campaign.
II. A Tale of Two Elections
In the final deliberations, questions of fact and matter of law come together. How did Kaiser’s unlawful practices impact the outcome of the California-wide election in the S&T unit?
The question does not require pure speculation. It’s sufficient to compare the S&T election, carried out in the shadow of unlawful takeaways, with the first NUHW/SEIU Kaiser election, the predecessor election of the three professional units in Southern California. Both occurred in the same year under the same employer. And the same unions were involved. Employees in both elections were under the same national and cross-regional contracts when they voted.
The first election involved three bargaining units: The Health Care Professional Unit (HCP), the Psyche-Social Chapter (PSC), and the American Federation of Nurses (AFN) unit. NUHW won the election by a landslide, by margins of victory that some say were unprecedented. NUHW received 90 percent of the votes cast in the AFN unit, 84 to 85 percent of the votes in the PSC unit, and about 85 percent in the HCP unit. There were victory celebrations. Enthusiasm was high. And many volunteers expected to carry their winning message to other units in the upcoming S&T election. NUHW expected to get a huge boost from its victory in Southern California, the way a winner in the Iowa primary gets momentum in New Hampshire.
As it turned out, Kaiser’s unlawful takeaways a few weeks later sapped the momentum. The victory actually became a liability. It was SEIU, the loser, that recruited and paid missionaries from Southern California to travel throughout the state, so damaging were the unlawful cuts to NUHW ability to campaign in the subsequent election.
How did NUHW win the first election? What kind of strategy, what kind of message, led to victory? Because NUHW participated in the Southern California election as the legal equal of SEIU, NUHW was able—in stark contrast to the second election—to carry out a strong, positive campaign.
True, there was mischief. It was hardly a perfect election. There were threats of takeaways, but they remained speculative. No unlawful acts gave them power.
Yes, SEIU outspent NUHW ten to one, inundated worksites with paid lobbyists from out of state. But as long as NUHW confronted SEIU as a legal equal, with no desperate need to defend entitlements, NUHW had a chance to win. There was no need to explain takeaways. NUHW stayed on message, and its strategy, implemented in an atmosphere mostly free of fear, worked.
The NUHW campaign created a sense of stability and confidence. NUHW literature and talking points focused on the great record of contracts won by its leaders. After all, NUHW leaders were formerly the leaders of UHW when UHW won the Kaiser five-year contract in 2005. The names of Sal Rosselli, Jorge Rodriguez, Ralph Cornejo, and Joan Emslie appear on the front page of that contract, ironically still in effect during the two 2010 contests against SEIU trustees.
NUHW activists and business reps reminded workers, who often overlook benefits they take for granted, that the gold-standard contract of 2005 provided paid health care, paid retirement, income security, input on staffing, and a partnership based on recognition of the basic rights of labor.
NUHW also called attention to its past system of elected shop stewards. Membership democracy was a key motif during the campaign of December 2009 and January 2010.
NUHW focused on the power and vitality of membership-run unions, on local activism. It denounced the SEIU trusteeship, imposed in January 2009, when outsiders from Washington took over a once vibrant and democratic union. (The trusteeship of UHW was part of a pattern of of 80 trusteeships and forced mergers under SEIU President Andy Stern over the decade. In modern times, no union—not even the mob-run Teamsters in the 50s—has trusteed more locals more systematically than SEIU.) Sal Rosselli and his supporters, at great cost to themselves, stood up to the abuse of trusteeship, while many others slept. That was the position of NUHW during the first election, when NUHW was not consumed by Kaiser’s unlawful actions and policies.
We do not expect the court to agree with the NUHW message, or its interpretation of its own history. But we do invite the court to recognize that NUHW had normal bragging rights in the first election, but never even got to tell its story in the second election under the impact of unlawful practices by the employer. Kaiser takeaways virtually nullified, or marginalized the affirmative messages that had led to victory in Southern California. When someone sets a fire to the back of the house, you have to drop everything to put it out.
Strong contracts, membership activism, democratic control of locals, defiance of Stern’s autocracy, resistance to outside takeovers, solidarity with the labor movement, civility and mutual respect—these themes resonated with voters in the Southern California election because the legal framework, shaky as it was, enabled NUHW to tell its story. A story that never got told in the second election.
What a difference the law makes!
When we contrast both elections, it is obvious to us that the two NUHW campaigns—before takeaways and after takeaways—were carried out under radically different circumstances with radically different results. We do not believe it is intellectually possible to explain the swing in votes and attitudes, the change of subject matter and themes, without reference to the damage caused by Kaiser’s unfair labor practices and discriminatory rules—especially the damage to the ability of NUHW to carry its winning message into the S&T units after February 2010.
Can any reasonable person believe that the outcome of the disputed Kaiser election would have been essentially the same had Kaiser and SEIU abided by the law, had the election been carried out under the same rules that prevailed in the first election, when NUHW won by a landslide?
The NLRB originally set up the Kaiser S&T election as a contest between two legal equals—NUHW and SEIU—two unions entitled to the same terms and conditions of employment, and equal access to the voters. That NLRB election never took place.
III. Summation of the Case
To uphold an election, whose conduct and outcome were dominated by unlawful actions of the employer, is to nullify the scope and meaning of Judge Schmidt’s ruling, and to disregard matters of law and principle to which Judge Schmidt refers.
Testimony from the hearing makes it clear that Kaiser turned its unlawful acts of February 2010 into official policy for the conduct of the next, much larger, election. This crucial position, coupled with Kaiser’s total exclusion of NUHW from its facilities while giving SEIU free rein to go anywhere they chose, are in and of themselves grounds for overturning the election.
Once Kaiser policy replaced NLRB law, the outcome of the election was essentially determined. Nor is it difficult to see why. Kaiser put NUHW into a heads-SEIU-wins, tails-NUHW-loses predicament. Voters could “choose” to give up their raises and benefits with NUHW, or “choose” to keep their benefits with SEIU.
If the results of this tainted election, the largest private-sector union election in 70 years, are upheld, other employers will see that they can break the law with impunity, and the future of our labor movement will be in even graver danger.
Steve Early, author of CIVIL WARS IN U.S. LABOR (2011)
Paul Rockwell, columnist for In Motion Magazine
Ellen David Friedman, Association of Union Democracy,
Cal Winslow, author of CIVIL WARS IN CALIFORNIA (2010)
Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.
You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.
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This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it!
The current tempest at KPFA is deeply troubling to those of us who value independent radio journalism. And it is confusing because so much of what we read and hear seems so vitriolic and biased. The following petition is a call for fairness on KPFA's air. Please read this petition, and if it seems fair to you please sign it:
Here's a little background. Because Pacifica, KPFA’s umbrella network, is holding on against bankruptcy by a thread, its directors have initiated essential budget-balancing policies that promise to restore both the network and KPFA to solvency.
Thanks to Pacifica, KPFA has recently acquired a new, experienced interim general manager, Andrew Phillips, who is committed to fairness in on-air reporting, in particular about KPFA's internal issues (the subject of the attached petition). And thanks in part to the long-overdue cost-cutting initiated by Pacifica, and to rebounding listener support, KPFA's financial health is showing signs of improvement.
Pacifica still has a democratically elected board, not a self-selected one as in '99, though some are promoting a return to that.
For a fuller account of the issues referred to here, take a look at the following:
· http://www.supportkpfa.org, run by volunteers, updated periodically
In this time of budget crises we are hearing increasing calls to tax the rich. Working people paying the cost of our wars with both their lives and their taxes are outraged that corporations like General Electric, with huge profits, pay nothing toward the many government services which allow them to make so much money.
When a real estate investor buys land for $1,000 an acre and sells it five years later for $30,000 an acre, he has not created that wealth. That wealth was created by the community: the workers, business people, and governments that developed the city surrounding the investor’s land. The community creates the services, and the demand, that increases the value of this land.
The investor may have done nothing but sign a promissory note to pay for that land, yet we have accepted a system where all of the increased value goes to the person who signed the note. We then tax that income, at the most, at approximately one third. We leave two thirds of this huge increase in private hands while the rest of us work and scrape to pay for the services that will multiply his next investment.
It doesn’t have to be this way. President Kennedy used to quote Luke 12:48, “From those to whom much is given, much is required,” and he lived that simple concept of justice. Just 50 years ago, under President Kennedy, we recognized this principle and taxed the wealthy at a 70 percent tax rate. From those to whom much is given, much is required. Today, we tax the wealthy at approximately 35 percent, or one-half of the previous rate, and wonder why we face budget shortfalls at every level of government.
Donald Trump’s salary is reportedly $42,000,000 per year, primarily from real estate investments. Yet we—the community—create the conditions that increase the value of his investments every year. Increasing his tax contribution from 35 percent ($13,000,000) to 70 percent ($26,000,000) per year would not only make a significant contribution to our budget problems, it would be fair. We resist implementing this simple and obvious solution to our budget crises only because we have been trained to believe that $42,000,000 he makes each year is entirely his money. It is not.
No one becomes wealthy without a lot of help from a lot of people, and Trump is no exception. It is time to demand that Trump and other wealthy individuals and large corporations pay their fair share of the costs it takes to fund our country and our states. Tax justice is a simple step we can take to address the financial crises we are facing and stop the ever-increasing concentration of power and money in our country.
Leeper is a Madison attorney actively supporting the protests against Governor Walker’s attack on public employees and collective bargaining. Leeper has served as a District Attorney in Wisconsin and has taught human rights, peace and conflict, negotiations, and rule of law courses in Ukraine, Spain, Zimbabwe, and the United States.
In Commemoration of Cesar Chavez--a shot across the bow for immigrants rights to health care in CCCC!!
Today, Yesterday, April 5, 2011, the Contra Costa County, CA Board of Supervisors conducted their 18th annual commemoration of the life and work of Cesar E. Chavez founder of the United Farm Workers Union. In response, a group of 15 representing the Richmond Progressive Alliance, doctors and other staff at the Contra Costa County Public Clinic system and the Health Care Action Team-East Bay let the Board know that their decision in 2009 excluding undocumented immigrants from public clinics must be reconsidered, is unacceptable, stands in contradiction to their honoring Cesar Chavez and shall not stand.
Nine of us spoke out against their xenophobic policy during the open comment session before the Chavez Commemoration (there were no other speakers on other topics during this period). The coup de grace came when the Board’s Keynote Speaker and honoree, Professor Blas Guerrero, after speaking at length about how, when Blas was a young child, Cesar Chavez had motivated his mother and himself to believe that he could in fact rise above oppressive field labor and go to college, chided the Board on betraying Cesar’s legacy with their discriminatory practices.
The Board was rattled by Blas’ comments. And perhaps as well by the silent picket sign holders in a line backing those comments and adding various others at the rear of the auditorium; and the flyer (attached) distributed to the 40 or so high school Latino youth who were brought to the even from school to enjoy the commemoration, watch Aztec dancers, hear a Mariachi band and enjoy a Mexican lunch. In wrap up, Board member John Goia responded from the mike directly to Blas to say (what we all knew) that the Board in 2009 had allocated 1.4 million dollars to a few non-profit clinics to partially cover some care for the people they decided to discriminate against (of course he avoided using the word “discrimination”).
The Board can reconsider and reverse the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the Public Health Care Plan during its upcoming budget debates. Hopefully we have laid the groundwork for a protracted effort to bring this change about. What is at stake in addition to the care of thousands of people in Contra Costa County, is also the nationwide attacks on worker and minority groups’ democratic and human rights. The scapegoating of immigrants that this policy represents is part of the rollback of all of our rights, of collective bargaining and unionization rights, of public services, and of the right to a job and job security. To the undocumented, as to us all, the right to health care is part of the struggle to be treated as human beings who have unalienable rights that must be preserved and honored.
Was American CIA agent Raymond Davis secretly working with the Taliban and al-Qaeda to destabilize Pakistan and lay the groundwork for a U.S. seizure of that country’s nuclear weapons? Was he photographing sensitive military installations and marking them with a global positioning device? Did he gun down two men in cold blood to prevent them from revealing what he was up to? These are just a few of the rumors ricocheting around Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar in the aftermath of Davis’s arrest Jan. 27, and sorting through them is a little like stepping through Alice’s looking glass.
But one thing is certain: the U.S. has hundreds of intelligence agents working in Pakistan, most of them private contractors, and many of them so deep in the shadows that Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), doesn’t know who they are or what they are up to. “How many more Raymond Davises are out there?” one ISI official asked Associated Press.
Lots, it would appear. Five months ago, the Pakistani government directed its embassies in the U.S. to issue visas without letting the ISI or Pakistan’s Interior Ministry vet them. According to the Associated Press, this opened a “floodgate” that saw 3,555 visas for diplomats, military officials and employees issued in 2010.
Many of those visas were for non-governmental organizations and the staff for the huge, $1 billion fortress embassy Washington is building in Islamabad, but thousands of others covered consular agents and workers in Lahore (where Davis was arrested), Karachi and other cities. Some of those with visas work for Xe Services (formally Blackwater), others for low-profile agencies like Blackbird Technologies, Glevum Associates, and K2 Solutions. Many of the “employees” of these groups are former U.S. military personnel—Davis was in the Special Forces for 10 years—and former CIA agents. And the fact that these are private companies allows them to fly under the radar of congressional oversight, as frail a reed as that may be.
How one views the incident that touched off the current diplomatic crisis is an example of how deep the differences between Pakistan and the U.S. have become.
The Americans claim Davis was carrying out surveillance on radical insurgent groups, and was simply defending himself from two armed robbers. But Davis’s story has problems. It does appear that the two men on the motorbike were armed, but neither fired their weapon and, according to the police report, one did not even have a shell in his pistol’s firing chamber. Davis apparently fired through the window of his armored SUV, then stepped out of the car and shot the two men in the back, one while attempting to flee. He then calmly took photos, called for backup, climbed into his car, and drove off. He was arrested shortly afterwards at an intersection.
The Pakistanis have a different view of the incident. According to Pakistani press reports, the two men were working for the ISI and were trailing Davis because the intelligence agency suspected that the CIA agent was in contact with the Tehrik-e-Taliban, a Pakistani group based in North Waziristan that is currently warring with Islamabad. As an illustration of how bizarre things are these days in Pakistan, one widespread rumor is that the U.S. is behind the Tehtik-e-Taliban bombings as part of a strategy to destabilize Pakistan and lay the groundwork for an American seizure of Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal.
The ISI maintains close ties with the Afghan Taliban based in Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province, as well as its allies, the Hizb-e-Islami and the Haqqani Group. All three groups are careful to keep a distance from Pakistan’s Taliban
Yet another rumor claims that Davis was spying on Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group with close ties to the ISI that is accused of organizing the 2008 massacre in Mumbai, India. The Americans claim the organization is working with al-Qaeda, a charge the Pakistanis reject.
When Davis’s car was searched, police turned up not only the Glock semi-automatic he used to shoot the men, but four loaded clips, a GPS device, and a camera. The latter, according to the police report, had photos of “sensitive” border sites. “This is not the work of a diplomat,” Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told the Guardian (UK), “he was doing espionage and surveillance activities.”
The shooting also had the feel of an execution. One of the men was shot twice in the back and his body was more than 30 feet from the motorbike, an indication he was attempting to flee. “It went way beyond what we define as self-defense, “ a senior police official told the Guardian (UK), “It was not commensurate with the threat.” The Lahore Chief of Police called it a “cold-blooded murder.”
The U.S. claims that Davis is protected by diplomatic immunity, but the matter might not be as open and shut as the U.S. is making it. According to the Pakistani Express Tribune, Davis’s name was not on a list of diplomats submitted to Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry on Jan. 25. The day after the shooting the embassy submitted a revised list that listed Davis as a diplomat.
Washingtonclearly considered Davis to be important. When he asked for backup on the day of the shooting, another SUV was dispatched to support him, apparently manned by agents living at the same safe house as Davis. The rescue mission went wrong when it ran over a motorcyclist while going the wrong direction down a one-way street. When the Pakistani authorities wanted to question the agents, they found that both had been whisked out of the country.
Almost immediately the Obama administration sent Sen. John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to Islamabad to apologize and pressure Pakistan to release Davis. But the incident has stirred up a hornet’s nest in Pakistan, where the CIA’s drone war has deeply alienated most Pakistanis. Opposition parties are demanding that the CIA agent be tried for murder. A hearing on the issue of whether Davis has diplomatic immunity will be heard Mar. 14.
In the meantime, Davis is being held under rather extraordinary security because of rumors that the Americans will try to spring him, or even poison him. Davis is being shielded from any direct contact with U.S. officials, and a box of chocolates sent to Davis by the Embassy was confiscated.
The backdrop for the crisis is a growing estrangement between the two countries over their respective strategies in Afghanistan.
The U.S. has stepped up its attacks on the Afghan insurgents, launched a drone war in Pakistan, and is demanding that Islamabad take a much more aggressive stance toward the Taliban’s allies based in the Afghan border region. While Washington still talks about a “diplomatic resolution” to the Afghan war, it is busy blowing up the very people it will eventually need to negotiate with.
This approach makes no sense to Pakistan. From Islamabad’s point of view, increasing attacks on the Taliban and their allies will only further destabilize Pakistan, and substitutes military victory for a diplomatic settlement. Since virtually every single independent observer thinks the former is impossible, the current U.S. strategy is, as terror expert Anatol Lieven puts it, “lunatic reasoning.”
Pakistanwants to insure that any Afghan government that emerges from the war is not a close ally of India, a country with which it has already fought three wars. A pro-Indian government in Kabul would essentially surround Pakistan with hostile forces. Yet the Americans have pointedly refused to address the issue of Indian-Pakistan tension over Kashmir, in large part because Washington very much wants an alliance with India.
In short, the U.S. and Pakistan don’t see eye to eye on Afghanistan, and Islamabad is suspicious that Americans like Davis are undermining Pakistan’s interests in what Islamabad views as an area central to its national security. “They [the U.S.] need to come clean and tell us who they [agents] are, what they are doing,” one ISI official told the Guardian (UK). “They need to stop doing things behind our back.”
There are a lot of unanswered questions about the matter. Was the ISI onto Davis, and was he really in contact with groups the Pakistani army didn’t want him talking to? What did Washington know about Davis’ mission, and when did it know it? Did Davis think he was being held up, or was it a cold-blooded execution of two troublesome tails?
Rumor has it that the CIA and the ISI are in direct negotiations to find an acceptable solution, but there are constraints on all sides. The Pakistani public is enraged with the U.S. and resents that it has been pulled into the Afghan quagmire. On the other hand, there are many in Washington—particularly in Congress—who are openly talking about cutting off the $1.5 billion of yearly U.S. aid to Pakistan.
What the incident has served to illuminate is the fact that U.S. intelligence operations are increasingly being contracted out to private companies with little apparent oversight from Congress. At last count, the U.S. Defense Department had almost 225,000 private contractors working for them.
The privatization of intelligence adds yet another layer of opacity to an endeavor that is already well hidden by a blanket of “national security,” and funded by black budgets most Americans never see. The result of all this is a major diplomatic crisis in what is unarguably the most dangerous piece of ground on the planet.
Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com
In 1981, in response to the death of his son, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote the classic When Bad Things Happen to Good People. In recent days there’s been such bad news about jobs and unemployment that Rabbi Kushner should consider writing a sequel: “When Bad Things Happen to Good Americans.”
23 million US citizens are not fully employed while corporations enjoy record profits. The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show US unemployment at 8.9 percent with another 5.4 percent underemployed and .7 percent “discouraged” – not looking for work for various reasons – for a combined rate of 15 percent. Of these unemployed, at least 1.4 million are “99ers,” individuals who have exhausted their unemployment benefits after unsuccessfully seeking work for 99 weeks. Oh vey!
Most American believe in God, as 83 percent of Americans identify either Christian (78.4 percent) or some other religion (4.7 percent). Rabbi Kushner asks: if there is a loving God, why do bad things happen? Why do we lose our jobs even though we work hard? After considering the usual explanations – God makes mistakes, suffering builds character, and so forth – the Rabbi concludes, “Maybe God does not cause our suffering. Maybe it happens for some reason other than the will of God.”
No doubt America’s millions of unemployed ask themselves daily why their bad thing happened. Reading their stories one realizes that these were good employees who were terminated because their corporation chose to increase its profitability.
The US economy is slowly improving but jobs are not being added at a rapid pace. Many economists predict high unemployment is likely to continue. Meanwhile, US Corporations are enjoying record profits.
Rabbi Kushner observes, “In the final analysis, the questions of why bad things happen to good people transmutes itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it happened.” What do Americans intend to do about our high unemployment and the 23 million citizens that are suffering?
Being a religious people, Americans believe the United States is the number one nation on the planet and that God favors us. We don’t expect to have chronic problems like high unemployment – or several million folks who have exhausted their unemployment benefits. When things go terribly wrong, Americans scramble for answers and we often resort to political blames games: it’s the fault of Democrats/Republican/Liberals/Conservatives. Chronic unemployment has become a political “hot potato” tossed back and forth between Democrats and Republicans.
Rabbi Kushner asks what do we intend to do now that the bad thing – chronic unemployment – has happened? What action will you and I take?
First we need to acknowledge that there is an ideological split. American agree on the reality of unemployment but not its causes and remedies. Liberals believe corporations care more about profits than they do worker wellbeing and feel the Federal government ought to intercede with a combination of unemployment insurance, reeducation, and job creation programs. Conservatives believe government is the root problem and feel that the market will provide the necessary jobs if only federal taxes and regulations are reduced.
This ideological split is usually framed as a debate about the merits of “big government” versus “big corporations.” While it’s expressed in political language it’s actually a question of values: do Americans honor the Golden Rule? Do we truly see ourselves as being responsible for our brothers and sisters? Do we care more about compassion than we do about profitability and efficiency?
When we consider our chronic unemployment as a question of values rather than political jargon, we recognize America is torn between individual values (human rights) and corporate values. And the conflict goes deeper. The US is in the midst of struggle to define the relationship between democracy and capitalism. Conservatives, and most Republicans, believe democracy and capitalism are synonymous; what is good for the market is good for Americans, in general. They believe corporate values trump human rights. Liberals, and many Democrats, do not believe that democracy and capitalism are synonymous; they’re worried that rising economic inequality is a grave social danger. They believe that human rights supersede corporate values.
Rabbi Kushner writes, “The God I believe in doesn't send us the problem; He gives us the strength to cope with the problem." He concludes his wise book by observing, “Our responding to life's unfairness with sympathy and with righteous indignation, God's compassion and God's anger working through us, may be the surest proof of all of God's reality.”
Americans need to respond to chronic unemployment with sympathy and righteous indignation. And from this moral stance we need to resist the political tsunami that argues that corporate rights trump those of individuals, that contends that democracy and capitalism are synonymous. In the face of a grave wrong Americans need to find the strength to protect all of our people.
Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at email@example.com
This week’s column is a potpourri-- a collection of miscellaneous or diverse items.
One of the requests shared last week (Q&A column, March 30 Planet) related to avoiding outdoor falls, a wise concern inasmuch as the elderly are often associated with being indoors, and falling may lead to avoiding going outdoors. I made a few feeble suggestions.
But wait -- there’s more! Handling bifocals and avoiding falls outdoors can be a problem. In a study published in medical journal BMJ, Australian researchers found a decrease in the number of falls among people who switched to single-vision eyeglasses for outdoor activities and stairs. The results “demonstrated how multifocal glasses can impair visual abilities needed for detecting obstacles and judging depth.” A caveat from this study: Some participants fell in the process of switching glasses.
Most meetings of the Berkeley City Council are televised (Channel 33), and usually an agenda appears online shortly before the meeting. The March 29, 2011 agenda included several items worthy of senior citizens’ note.
#26: “Taxicab Improvements in Berkeley and Request for Formal Response to Berkeley Taxi Cab Association” [BTCA] was from District 7 Councilmember Kriss Worthington [firstname.lastname@example.org, (510) 981-7170 and 7177], who recommended “Refer to the City Manager a comprehensive number of issues concerning taxi operations in the City of Berkeley, and request that the City Manager formally respond, in writing, to Berkeley Taxi Cab Association's October 4 letter and accompanying grievances.” Kriss’ suggested alternatives included provision of “additional times for taxi operators to trade in their taxi scrip for money.” This reminded me that a cab driver had told me that he never "goes in there" to redeem scrip-- he simply accumulates the scrip and -- like other drivers -- turns it all over to "the owner" who redeems it.
Incredibly, the BTCA’s grievances demand that not all drivers be finger-printed! And they impose "other cities of the bay" [sic] not requiring all taxi cab drivers be finger-printed as an analogy, which should be rejected or at least refuted.
The BTCA's references in both their Grievances and Rules and Regulations to being "always engaged in handling people with special cases i.e. blind, disable, sickness and old age" [sic] is falsity. From experience, observation and reports, I know that senior citizens are ignored, neglected, avoided, and abused. There is no point in reporting scrip rejected by drivers, scrip thrown back in passengers' faces, phoning for a cab that does not show up when the address is senior housing. Many old people (whether scrip users or not) hesitate to respond to abuse and to report it. Fear often accompanies old age. Senior center directors could but do not provide forums for such matters.
#27: “Send a Letter to AC Transit Asking to Implement Ease-of-Boarding Featuresof BRT.” Kriss recommended sending “a letter to AC Transit, asking to participate in two key aspects of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT): level boarding and prepaid boarding.”
Action Calendar #30: “Support AARP's Petition to Oppose Social Security and Medicare Benefit Cuts” recommended sending a letter to Senators Dianne Feinstein Senator Barbara Boxer supporting AARP’s petition to oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature have reached an agreement on the 2011-12 Executive Budget. It includes restoration of Title XX funding for senior centers, keeping 105 senior centers open for operation for 10,000 older New Yorkers. A ground swell of advocacy efforts moved this issue forward. Older New Yorkers, and other concerned citizens led the efforts by organizing dozens of rallies, making thousands of phone calls, and writing thousands of emails/letters to Governor Cuomo and the legislature.
Some elderly Americans got a surprise visit on March 23. Across the country, 1,500 mayors delivered hot meals to seniors as part of the sixth annual event. The Meals on Wheels Association of America reports that 1 in 9, or 5 million, seniors are hungry. Many Americans assume incorrectly that seniors are being taken care of by Social Security. Unlike themillions of children who struggle with hunger each day, the problem isn't always about money; rather, it is a lack of access or ability to prepare food due to transportation or health problems. For more information on Meals on Wheels and how you can get involved, visit the Meals on Wheels website.
ACT NOW: According to the National Council on Aging, Congress will shortly vote on a budget proposal that may include massive, historic cuts in seniorprograms that provide jobs, housing, and volunteer opportunities for older Americans. Already, the House has passed a bill that would:
Cut the Senior Community Service Employment Program, thenation’s only jobs program, eliminating jobs for more than 83,000 poor seniors.
Abolish the Senior Corps program—"firing" more than 450,000 senior volunteers in the Foster Grandparent, RSVP, and Senior Companion programs.
Cut the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderlyprogramby a two-thirds reduction.
Email your lawmakers before these cuts become law. Urge them to reject cuts in senior programs that provide jobs, housing, and volunteer opportunities for older Americans. Congress will vote within two weeks on the FY11 funding bill, and is considering massive cuts.
"Older lesbians, gays have higher rates of chronic disease, mental distress, isolation," reports the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is the country's first and only technical assistance resource center aimed at improving the quality of services and supports offered to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Established in 2010 through a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Center provides training, technical assistance and educational resources to aging providers, LGBT organizations and LGBT older adults. It is a project of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) in partnership with several organizations.
Donna Davis reports that the BAS Poetry Workshop at the North Berkeley Senior Center “is an endless delight.” To her amazement, every Thursday morning people enter the classroom, read her prompt, and start writing--like turning on some miraculous faucet--and remarkable poems come forth.
Wednesday, April 6, noon. Free admission. Andrew Imbrie Festival Birthday concert. University Symphony Orchestra, David Milnes, conductor. Violin concerto, Ariana Kim, soloist. UCB Department of Music. (510) 642-4864.
Saturday, April 9, 2011: The Friends of Albany Seniors will hold its annual White Elephant & Bake Sale. Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic ve. Bargains in handcrafted items, jewelry, books, toys, housewares, baked goods. Proceeds support the Albany Senior Center. Donated goods (except large furniture, electronics, clothing) are welcome; contact Zion Lee, Program Coordinator, Albany Senior Center, 510-524-9131.
Sunday, April 10, 11 AM, 125 Morrison Hall (Elkus Room). Free admission. Symposium on contemporary music. After the symposium, view the Andrew Imbrie Exhibit at the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library. (510) 642-4864.
Sunday, April 10, 3 PM, Hertz Concert Hall. Free admission. Andrew Imbrie Festival concert. UC,B Department of Music (510) 642-4864.
Thursday, April 14, 12:00 noon – 1:30 Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress is the title of presenter Candacy Taylor’s 2009 book and of her presentation. Free, refreshments. Three of the chapter titles may give you an idea of why the cover picture’s waitress has aged arms: The waitressing stigma; The generation gap; Refusing to retire. Photographer, writer and former waitress, Candacy Taylor uses interviews, cultural criticism, photography, and oral histories to document an overlooked group of working women, profiling waitresses aged 50 + in American neighborhood diners. AgeSong SeniorCommunity. For information and directions, contact Cherriebianca San Pietro at email@example.com and (877) 243 - 7664.
Thursday, April 14, 2011 5-7 P.M.: Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress is the title of presenter Candacy Taylor’s 2009 book and of her presentation at UCB Stephen’s Hall, Room 460 (area 5C on campus map.) RSVP to DesiOwens@berkeley.edu .
Thursday, April 21 - Older Adult Passover Seder – Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, Berkeley. 11:30am-1:30pm - $10 JCC Member / $13 Non-Member
The event sells out each year. RSVP by April 14. Call JCC Front Desk at 510-848-0237.Kosher meal will include chicken and matzo ball soup, gefilte fish with horseradish sauce, fresh green salad w/ hard boiled eggs, roasted chicken, matzoh kugel, and wine. The Seder will be led by Ron Feldman and Achi Ben Shalom.
Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Please, no email attachments or phone calls; use “Senior Power” for subject.
Smoking is linked with lung cancer, emphysema, and other diseases. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (each year about 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking. Despite these risks, approximately 46.6 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes. And cigarette smoking costs more than $193 billion, $97 billion in lost productivity plus $96 billion in health care expenditures.
Tobacco companies spend about $15.3 billion on tobacco marketing and promotion. Because they are prohibited from advertising on television and radio, the tobacco companies market and promote their products in convenience stores, in magazines, especially those popular with youth, online, and special promotions designed to lure the young into thinking that smoking is cool or a way to express their independence. Point-of-sale ads oftentimes include coupons, multi-pack discounts for which the retailer is reimbursed, free gifts with cigarette purchases. Retailers are paid to display the tobacco company's ads prominently in display racks or in good shelving space.
In movies and on television series, smoking is portrayed as fun, exciting, and sexy or rebellious or connected to power. Are you watching AMC's Mad Men?
Most smokers start as teenagers or at least start when they are young. The tobacco companies' ads are effective. According to the CDC, each day, about 3,450 young people between 12 and 17 years of age smoke their first cigarette, each day, about 850 persons younger than 18 years of age begin smoking on a daily basis, and each day, about 2,200 adults 18 years of age or older begin smoking on a daily basis.
A recent example of a tobacco company promotional campaign was one launched in October 2010. RJ Reynolds, a subsidiary of Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc., began its "Break Free Adventure" campaign. The campaign highlighted 10 destinations including San Francisco, Las Vegas, and New Orleans, Austin, Texas; Seattle; Bonneville Flats, Utah; Sturgis, S.D.; Route 66; Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Williamsburg neighborhood, on special cigarette packs distributed in December and January 2011 that feature colorful images of the cities and well-known landmarks. Reynolds had taken the camel off of packages and encouraged smokers to go a special website to find the camel and win prizes.
Why the "Break Free Adventure" campaign? Because RJ Reynolds wants new smokers? The campaign targeted America's youth, the next generation of possible smokers. Smoking has declined in the U.S. in the past ten years. According to the CDC, the smoking rate is about 20 to 21 percent since 2005, down from 28 percent earlier in the last decade. And the American demand for cigarettes is down 4.7 percent from last year and tobacco companies' revenues have stayed flat. In 2010, Camel held 19 percent of the adult smokers under 30. Forty-four percent of its buyers were under 30, and the brand saw 10 percent of tobacco consumers in that category switch from another brand to Camel.
On November 23, 2010, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) asked RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. to stop this promotional campaign that the group claims appeals to young people. In a letter to the nation’s second-largest cigarette maker, the group said Reynolds’ “Break Free Adventure” campaign has substantial youth appeal and may encourage underage tobacco use.
NAAG's request stated in part, “We are concerned that this advertising campaign is using aspects of popular culture, including independent music, art, motor sports, and ‘hip’ or countercultural attitudes, to advertise Camel cigarettes in a way that is appealing to young people’s psychological needs for rebelliousness, sensation-seeking, and risk-taking." It was written by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, co-chairmen of the group’s tobacco committee.
NAAG also cited the 1998 tobacco settlement that prohibits the marketing of tobacco to youth. Those restrictions included a ban on Reynolds’ use of the cartoon character “Joe Camel.”
The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) mentioned above was an agreement entered into in November 1998, originally between the four largest US tobacco companies and the attorneys generalof 46 states. The states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related health care costs, and also exempted the companies from privatetort liability regarding harm caused by tobacco use. In exchange, the companies agreed to curtail or cease certain tobacco marketing practices, as well as to pay, in perpetuity, various annual payments to the states to compensate them for some of the medical costs of caring for persons with smoking-related illnesses. The money also funds a new anti-smoking advocacy.
Likewise San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and former San Francisco Public Health Director Mitch Katz wrote a similar letter to the president of RJ Reynolds pointing out that the campaign "shamelessly appeals to youth." And goes on to say, "By associating the cool reputation of San Francisco's Haight neighborhood with a product that kills over 400,000 Americans each year, the Break Free Adventure campaign seeks to undermine our recent public health gains in reducing smoking and the social acceptability of smoking." Further, the letter says, "San Francisco does not want its cultural icons like the Haight to be exploited to promote the idea that youth can 'evolve, revolve or revolt and the follow the force to break free' by smoking Camels." Finally, the letter noted that, "Smoking remains the number-one cause of of preventable death for San Francisco residents and urged RJ Reynolds to cancel the 'Break Free Campaign.'"
In response, RJ Reynolds disingenuously claimed the campaign targets adult, not young smokers. By the way, the legal age for smoking in California is 18 as it is in most states. On its Web site, RJ Reynolds claims it is following the marketing rules in the states’ settlement agreement as well as a voluntary cigarette promotion code promising not to “suggest that smoking is essential to social prominence, distinction, success or sexual attraction.”
RJ Reynolds' "Break Free Adventure" campaign has probably run its course.
At this point, perhaps a very brief history of cigarette advertising is in order. in 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General released his Advisory Committee Report on Smoking and Health. The staggeringly comprehensive report was based on more than 7,000 scientific studies linking smoking with lung cancer, emphysema, and other diseases.
In 1970, the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act prohibits cigarette advertising on any medium of electronic communication subject to the jurisdiction of the FCC. It also requires conspicuous "Surgeon General's Warnings" to be placed on all packages of cigarettes and on all cigarette advertisements and billboards.
In November 2003, tobacco companies and magazine publishers agreed to cease the placement of advertisements in school library editions of four magazines with a large group of young readers.
In 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate cigarette manufactures. Under the Act, the FDA can dictate product ingredients and overrule new products, compels tobacco companies to eliminate potentially misleading labels like "light" and "mild," regulates a product's ingredients and increases the size of the warning labels on cigarette packs. Cigarette advertising is banned on television and radio. But the FDA is prohibited from banning cigarettes.
Clearly, regulation has had some, but not enough effect on smoking in the U.S. As long as the manufacture and sale of tobacco products is legal, tobacco companies like any other company will market and promote their products to increase sales and market share. The tobacco companies will come up to, an occasionally step ove,r the legal line. It is up to law enforcement agencies and the public to be on the alert.
Is a ban on the manufacture and sale of tobacco products the answer? The tobacco-growing states and the tobacco lobby would be a huge obstacle to such a step. If you banned tobacco products, should we also ban alcohol because of widespread alcoholism. (We know how effective prohibition was.) How about banning certain food items or ingredients that contribute to obesity, heart disease, etc.
Clearly, regulation is not the only answer. Perhaps, more education, public service announcements on television and radio would help. I don't know the answer and neither do our politicians.
The inexorable march of the wild turkeys continues. Lately we’ve been seeing them at the Gill Tract in Albany, feeding in the fields that the Canada geese occupy in winter. Maybe there’s a time-share arrangement.
That encounter reminded me that we had interviewed a number of local wildlife professionals a couple of months ago for a Chronicle piece about problematic urban critters, and a lot of the material wound up on the cutting room floor. It seemed worth reprising in a more extended version. Herewith, five ways of looking at a wild turkey.
Maggie Sergio, Wildcare: We get a lot of phone calls about turkeys. What typically happens, it usually boils down to someone feeding them and they become aggressive. In breeding season they will see their reflection in a hubcap and attack it. There was an issue in San Rafael and one or two people were feeding them. If they’ve been habituated, opening up an umbrella can shy them off. Or get a hose and spray their feet with water. There’s a scarecrow device that looks like a rain sprinkler and works on a motion sensor. That can work for a multitude of animals, but all things work all the time with wildlife.
Susan Heckley, Lindsay Museum: There’s not much we can do about turkeys. Because they’re a non-native species we don’t give a lot of help to them. We can talk people through how to change their landscape to make it less attractive to turkeys. Once they’re on ground at a feeding spot they tend not to fly over fences. You have to take away their food sources and make sure the neighbors are not putting out food for them.
Kyle Orr, Department of Fish and Game information officer: We tend to get the most wild turkey calls around Thanksgiving. There have been a number of approaches toward turkeys. Property damage is an issue—they scratch paint on cars, defecate on lawns. The Department tells people that feeding wild turkeys will bring the problem home to roost. I’m not aware of any recent increase in calls. Their numbers are very healthy, around 240,000 statewide.
Eric Larson, Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Incidents Supervisor, Bay/Delta Region: Wild turkeys have been the biggest issue in Bay Area when someone in the community has been feeding them. Turkeys can also bring in predators, raising risk for people and pets. We’ve had a steady rise in reports over the last ten years. Where are the hot spots? It’s easier to identify geographical cold spots where turkeys don’t occur: high-elevation areas like the Sierra, drier areas where they tend not to be. They love golf courses. It’s not so much a matter of damage to the greens as being in the way. They also scare people. The toms will be defensive during breeding season. Altercations can occur. They find natural food sources in oak savannas and scrub areas. Some people leave bags of corn for them. Once they’re established in an area, it’s harder to get rid of them. Taking the leading tom out of the flock will disrupt the flock and they will disperse. Dogs do help quite a bit. Most of the predators for turkeys the human population doesn’t see—mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats.
Daniel Wilson, Alameda County Vector Control: When I was a kid we would call somebody a turkey if they were acting stupid. But these turkeys aren’t stupid. They realize there’s more food in urban areas and people will feed them. There are also no predators. You can’t do anything to them without a Fish and Game depredation permit. We get a lot of calls and complaints. They dig up plants and scratch the paint on cars. We have a wildlife specialist who works with us and with the US Department of Agriculture who recently helped a condo complex manager exclude turkeys. Sometimes they’re trapped, and there are ranches where we can relocate them. Out in Rossmoor the turkeys got so bad they had USDA go out and shoot a bunch of them. We get turkey calls from Alameda, of all places. They migrate through the hill areas. They pick out a favorite area and hang out there. We’ve had a pretty big problem in Dublin, Pleasanton, all along hills from Hayward down to Fremont. Fish and Game has a wild turkey response plan delegating any responsibility to local authority. Turkeys are just a revenue source for Fish and Game.
Medicating the brain is a serious matter; it should not be considered with an off-hand approach. It seems there are some psychiatrists who prescribe during a fifteen-minute session, with as much contemplation as someone shooting down fake ducks in a shooting gallery. Especially, when you are medicating a child, other avenues of accomplishing the same objective (whatever the objective is) ought to be investigated.
I don’t like to publicly criticize psychiatrists since I use one and would not like to get all of them angry. Most of them with whom I have come into contact are highly conscientious, caring and good at what they do. The one I have now is like the character in the television show, “House,” not in how he acts toward people, but in regard to his detective-like approach to assessing people.
When you medicate the brain, it is likely that it will undergo structural changes as a result. Once on a medication, it may at some point become untenable to take the person off of that medication, without at least introducing another medication to compensate for its absence.
I object to the current advertising campaign of the drug companies that promotes medications for children diagnosed with attention deficit. When I grew up, attention deficit either had not been given a name, or possibly did not exist. Video games did not come into the hands of kids until I was well into high school, high fructose corn syrup had not come into existence, and it was television that rotted people’s minds, not smart phones.
The structures in the brain are also affected by a person’s environment. If a person is made to exercise their mental capacities via a parent’s insistence, (such as making the child read or do homework) environment is improved, and the brain improves structurally.
You’re reading words written by someone who advocates medication to treat severe mental illnesses in adults. I take medication and plenty of it. There is the correct use of medication, and there is the excessive and wrong use of it, which serves to fatten the wallets of the stockholders who own the drug companies, and do the same for treatment professionals in the mental health treatment system.
I am medicated in order to treat a severe case of Schizophrenia, Paranoid-type. Without medication, I cannot live in society and follow the basic rules that “normal” people are expected to adhere to. If there were a way for me to exist without these mind-numbing medications, I would be the first in line to make use of it.
A person who reads my column has suggested I cover the subject of combating mild depression without resorting to using medication. If someone’s depression is not unbearable, and if it does not massively interfere with day-to-day functioning, I believe methods of treating it without medication should be examined.
The following is a list of methods that can be tried in order to get oneself out of a bout of mild depression:
- Clean out the cobwebs with an “all-nighter.” Staying up all night, if not done repeatedly, is known to raise serotonin levels and boost the mood.
- Have fun. Doing an activity that makes you happy is fun. If you let yourself have a little fun, you might forget about the fact that you are depressed.
- Be Lazy. Cutting back on excessive mundane activities, at least for a couple days, could make you feel better.
- Identify and retire negative thoughts. This is done one thought at a time, and can be done in written form, if you like. You can get this to happen on automatic if you do it often enough.
- Do something about your problems. If a situation repeatedly bothers you, even taking a first step toward solving it can be a boost.
- Physical exercise in moderation sometimes is helpful, if you do not approach it in a self-punishing manner. If you do not like the idea of exercise because you feel too depressed to move, you can skip this one.
- Have a goal. If you do not know why you’re here and have not chosen a life purpose, it is an invitation for something negative to fill this vacuum. You can fix this by choosing your purpose in life in a deliberate manner, rather than trying to “discover what you’re meant to do.”
Arts & Events
Beardo, Jason Craig's (Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage—A Songplay) latest at Shotgun, with splendid music (Slavic Country Swing?) by Dave Malloy—played by an augmented string quartet among the birches (Lisa Clark's set) and directed by Shotgun founder Patrick Dooley—who's assembled a team that's given the show unusually high production values (especially Christine Crook's costumes and Michael Palumbo's lighting) slips half-drunkenly over and over between two stools that rascal Rasputin balances his backside on: musical comedy burlesque and a deadpan conceptual put-on.
Of similar formula to Beowulf, Beardo opens with the cheeky—and randy—schlemiel hero (Ashkon Davaron), who renders all he entices into schlamazels, caught with his hand in a hole, and closes with his humiliating reign of verbal and sexual terror over the effete Czar's court brought to term with a drawn-out assassination by tutu-clad singing boyars that bring the recreant to earth again. (One memorable line points out the difference between dirt and earth, at least to a Slavist.) The best, most suggestive moments are a kind of Cat Stevens-ish folksong, but about "covering my back," and the epilogue, a voice-over of a father punishing his "bad" son, reminiscent of the voice-overs of scarred childhood memory in Michael Powell's Peeping Tom—-though they would've been more effective at the start, and followed out more.
Meanwhile, there's some spirited farceur work by members of the very big, Russian chorus-ridden cast (in particular, Anna Ishida as the fed-up "Czarissa") and much cavorting with a Faberge' dildo.
Beardo and his dog act may be lovable, but ain't shaggy enough. It's a little bit like Springtime for Hitler without Dick Shawn. As with Rasputin's assassination, if the shots hit the mark, the subject still didn't expire on cue.
Ruined, Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prizewinner--now in its last week at Berkeley Rep--presents a conundrum to theater-goers, one often enough found in regional rep productions: a thoroughly professional stage production of a newer play, offset by a kind of aimlessness of dramatic intent dogging a well-meaning script that seems to aim at all the academic verities of the craft.
In other words, Ruined advertises itself as a piece that gives dramatic perspective on the ongoing crisis in the Congo--and Liesl Tommy's staging of it necessarily trips over the displacements encountered in trying to flesh out its disparities.
"My play is not about victims, but survivors," said Nottage. A noble credo, but one that's unsure of its own sense of the characters, or theirs of each other.
A pedestrian "realistic" melodrama about gripping events and how they're lived through, the most striking images, the tableaux of the Congo, in Ruined run the gamut from a dreamlike surrealism (when Sophie, the "ruined" young woman who's just been grudgingly accepted into the brothel, finds herself surrounded by crouched, menacing soldiers in darkness--and then, in a flash of light, is singing Afro-pop to them, customers dancing wildly), to dischordant echoes of sentimentality (Mama Nadi as the tough madam maybe harboring a heart of gold), a performative epic style (Nadi as a momentary kind of Mother Courage), back to sugar coating again (the sentimentalized happy ending after the crisis--the disaster--of the brothel raided by vengeful soldiers--and Nadi's tearful acceptance of a kind of forgiveness) emphasize the flimsiness of the play's own storytelling as it droops under the stylistic potpourri it's adorned with.
In his March 9th review of Ruined in the Plant, John McMullen brought up many points I concur with; one I interpret a little differently: in the fine performances by the predominantly African actors, their accented elongating of the dialogue didn't slow down the play in a pejorative sense so much as make its language reveal a lack of density, an inability to survive a reality check of "African time," the social rhythm of communication--even realization--in the very scene Ruined purports to portray, to get under the skin of ...
For a play aimed at American audiences, it might've been better to take the more immediate post-colonial strife of, say, Lumumba and the Katanga rebellion as the subject, so audiences might get the drift of how these confusing and confused events of today came about through an international historic situation ... Despite references to mineral rights and a white trader character, Ruined can too easily fall into the kind of confused audience perception--and apathy--of "they're just killing each other," exactly the syndrome of The Killing Fields, cut by a kind of Hallmark one-size-fits-all empathy.
For a drama that's meant to cast light on current events, Ruined falls short of any serviceable production of a two millenia-old classic, like The Trojan Women or Hecuba, at illuminating the interminable conflicts of our world and the human price of survival.
Which brings up the flipside conundrum to the one signaled by Ruined: can a present-day adaptation and staging of a modern classic, Chekhov's Three Sisters--the Rep's next production--bring out the contemporaneous truth of its originality, without getting lost in a Babel of very up-to-date preoccupations?
On April 4, 2011, the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards presented their 35th Annual Awards Ceremony, celebrating outstanding achievement in Bay Area theatre during 2010, at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre Lobby. [The complete list of award winners may be found at the end of this press release.]
Representing the print and electronic media, 28 members of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle announced the winners of 36 Drama awards and 38 Musical awards from 400+ nominated actors, designers, productions, and more reviewed in 2010. Over 400 productions were seen in 2010 by Circle critics reviewing theatre from San Jose to Santa Rosa, San Francisco to Concord.
Actors' Equity Association was the proud sponsor of the SFBATCC Awards again this year. Actors' Equity, which represents over 1000 professional stage actors and stage managers in the Bay Area, shares with the Critics Circle a common goal to support professional Equity theatres in order to improve the livelihood of the artists who work in those theatres.
The Critics Circle uses a three-part separation of award categories between Theatres with (1) 99 Seats or Less; (2) 100-300 Seats; and (3) Over 300 Seats. As such, theatre companies of similar sizes compete and receive recognition for their outstanding work. An award is also presented for an outstanding Touring show.
Touring Productions -- West Side Story, produced by SHN’s Best of Broadway, won the critics’ nod among 5 nominations.
99 Seats or Less -- In Drama, The Cutting Ball Theater led with 3 awards for …and Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi, including Ensemble and Entire Production. Becoming Julia Morgan, produced by The Julia Morgan Project shared the Ensemble award. In the Musicals category, Ray of Light Theatre’s Baby: A Musicalwon 6 awards, including Ensemble and Entire Production. And Carl Jordan won the Specialties Award for his choreography in Pirates of Penzance, produced by Novato Theater Company.
Between 100-300 Seats -- In Drama, Aurora Theatre Company received 7 awards for its production of Trouble in Mind, including Ensemble and Entire Production, as well as 1 award each for Palomino(David Cale for Solo Performer) and The First Grade(Joel Drake Johnson for Original Script). Marin Theatre Company and New Conservatory Theatre Center each won 2 awards. In the Musicals category, 11 awards went to Center Repertory Company with 7 for She Loves Me(including Entire Production), 3 awards for A Marvelous Party(including Ensemble) and 1 for Becoming Britney. And 42nd Street Moon won 2 musical awards.
Over 300 Seats -- In Drama, TheatreWorks’ Opusreceived 4 awards, including Entire Production. San Jose Repertory Theatre also won 4 awards, with Black Pearl Sings!taking 3, and The Secret Order(Ensemble). Berkeley Repertory Theatre collected a total of 4 awards, 2 each for Compulsionand Lemony Snicket’s The Composer Is Dead. In the Musicals category, American Conservatory Theater led with 4 awards for The Tosca Project, including Ensemble (tied with Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Girlfriend) and Entire Production. Contra Costa Musical Theatre took 3 awards for A Chorus Lineand 1 for Oklahoma. And TheatreWorks received 3 awards for The Light in the Piazzaand 1 for A Christmas Memory.
SF BAY AREA THEATRE CRITICS CIRCLE
* denotes AEA membership (designated by AEA)
West Side Story---SHN’s Best of Broadway*
THEATRES UNDER 99 SEATS
…and Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi---The Cutting Ball Theater
Becoming Julia Morgan---The Julia Morgan Project
Marga Gomez---Marga Gomez Is Proud and Bothered---New Conservatory Theatre Center
Ann Randolph---Loveland---The Marsh
Jason Grote---1001---Just Theater
Bert van Aalsburg (Set Design)---How the Other Half Loves---Off Broadway West Theatre Company
Terry McGovern---Humble Boy---Ken Bacon and Marin Actors’ Workshop
*Aldo Billingslea---…and Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi---The Cutting Ball Theater
*Dawn Scott---Intimate Apparel---AlterTheater
…and Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi---The Cutting Ball Theater
Baby: A Musical---Ray of Light Theatre
Carl Jordan (Choreography)---Pirates of Penzance---Novato Theater Company
Rona Siddiqui---Baby: A Musical---Ray of Light Theatre
Dyan McBride---Baby: A Musical---Ray of Light Theatre
Andrew Willis-Woodward---Baby: A Musical---Ray of Light Theatre
Sarah Kathleen Farrell---Baby: A Musical---Ray of Light Theatre
Baby: A Musical---Ray of Light Theatre
THEATRES 100 – 300 SEATS
*Trouble in Mind---Aurora Theatre Company*
David Cale---Palomino---Aurora Theatre Company*
Joel Drake Johnson---The First Grade---Aurora Theatre Company*
Dave Maier (Fight Choreography)---Oedipus el Rey---Magic Theatre*
Callie Floor---Trouble in Mind---Aurora Theatre Company*
York Kennedy---In the Red and Brown Water (The Brother/Sister Plays, Part 1)---Marin Theatre Company*
Cliff Caruthers---Dracula---Center Repertory Company*
Kuo-Hao Lo---The Sugar Witch---New Conservatory Theatre Center
SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE, MALE
*Rhonnie Washington---Trouble in Mind---Aurora Theatre Company*
SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE FEMALE
Marie O’Donnell---Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins---New Conservatory Theatre Center
PRINCIPAL PERFORMANCE, MALE
*Tim Kniffin---Trouble in Mind---Aurora Theatre Company*
PRINCIPAL PERFORMANCE, FEMALE
*Margo Hall---Trouble in Mind---Aurora Theatre Company*
*Trouble in Mind---Aurora Theatre Company*
A Marvelous Party---Center Repertory Company*
*Klea Blackhurst---Everything the Traffic Will Allow---42nd Street Moon*
Leanne Borghesi---Divalicious---New Conservatory Theatre Center
Molly Bell and Daya Curley---Becoming Britney---Center Repertory Company*
David Maier (Fight Choreography)---The Fantasticks---SF Playhouse*
Victoria Livingston-Hall---She Loves Me---Center Repertory Company*
Kurt Landisman---She Loves Me---Center Repertory Company*
Ted Crimy---Woody Guthrie’s American Song---Marin Theatre Company*
Bill Forrester---A Marvelous Party---Center Repertory Company*
Brandon Adams---She Loves Me---Center Repertory Company*
Robert Barry Fleming---She Loves Me---Center Repertory Company*
SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE, MALE
*Noel Anthony---She Loves Me---Center Repertory Company*
SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE, FEMALE
*Molly Bell---A Marvelous Party---Center Repertory Company*
Rena Wilson---Lady, Be Good!---42nd Street Moon*
PRINCIPAL PERFORMANCE, MALE
*Ryan Drummond---She Loves Me---Center Repertory Company*
PRINCIPAL PERFORMANCE, FEMALE
*Velina Brown---Posibilidad, or Death of the Worker---San Francisco Mime Troupe*
She Loves Me---Center Repertory Company*
THEATRES OVER 300 SEATS
Secret Order---San Jose Repertory Theatre*
*Geoff Hoyle---Lemony Snicket's The Composer Is Dead---Berkeley Repertory Theatre*
Octavio Solis---The Pastures of Heaven---California Shakespeare Theater*
Emily DeCola, Daniel Fay and Eric Wright (Puppeteers)---Compulsion---
Jessica Grindstaff and Erik Sanko aka Phantom Limb (Puppet Design)---Lemony Snicket's The Composer Is Dead---Berkeley Repertory Theatre*
Matt Acheson (Puppet Design)---Compulsion---
Beaver Bauer---License to Kiss II: A Sweet Conspiracy---Teatro ZinZanni
John Iacovelli---Black Pearl Sings!---San Jose Repertory Theatre*
SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE, MALE
*Jud Williford---Scapin---American Conservatory Theater*
SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE, FEMALE
*Margo Hall---Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet (The Brother/Sister Plays, Part 3)---American Conservatory Theater*
PRINCIPAL PERFORMANCE, MALE
*Bill Irwin---Scapin---American Conservatory Theater*
PRINCIPAL PERFORMANCE, FEMALE
*Jannie Jones---Black Pearl Sings!---San Jose Repertory Theatre*
*Jessica Wortham---Black Pearl Sings!---San Jose Repertory Theatre*
Girlfriend---Berkeley Repertory Theatre*
The Tosca Project---American Conservatory Theater*
Todd Almond---Girlfriend---Berkeley Repertory Theatre*
Jennifer Perry (Choreography)---A Chorus Line---Contra Costa Musical Theatre
Fumiko Bielefeldt---The Light in the Piazza---TheatreWorks*
Robert Wierzel---The Tosca Project---American Conservatory Theater*
Darron L. West---The Tosca Project---American Conservatory Theater*
Douglas W. Schmidt---The Tosca Project---American Conservatory Theater*
William Liberatore---The Light In the Piazza---TheatreWorks*
Jennifer Perry---A Chorus Line---Contra Costa Musical Theatre
SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE, MALE
*Constantine Germanacos---The Light in the Piazza---TheatreWorks*
SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE, FEMALE
Renee DeWeese---A Chorus Line---Contra Costa Musical Theatre
PRINCIPAL PERFORMANCE, MALE
Gabriel Hoffman---A Christmas Memory---TheatreWorks*
PRINCIPAL PERFORMANCE, FEMALE
Jessica Knudsen---Oklahoma---Contra Costa Musical Theatre
The Tosca Project---American Conservatory Theater*
Editor, The Orinda News
Theater Columnist - Contra Costa Times/WC Magazine
Mystics, prophets, and seers often move kings and empires. Think of Daniel, think of Joseph; then think of Rasputin. We stand outside the stories that vaunt their deeds and read and hear them as tales of the hero—or rascal. BEARDO is a look into the mind of that hedonist mystic Rasputin, who most Westerners may think of as the charlatan who beguiled the Tsarina and was part of thecause of the revolution.
Beardo at Shotgun Players is a funny, quirky, work of art. Jason Craig writes in simple dialogue full of earthy poetry like Sam Shepherd wrote in his early mythic. Craig’s lyrics are simple, often hysterically funny, and versatile to fit the variety of music. Dave Malloy’s original compositions is from different genres which is the formulaBrecht used.
Be warned—or be regaled— that it is full of bawdy, erotic, expletive humor, and graphic portrayals of sex and violence, just as we might imagine post-feudal Russia and its indulgent, self-absorbed Court.
Act one starts like a Russian folk tale. When we enter the theatre, a dirty, bearded beggar lies face-up and motionless in a field full of forty barren white birches with his arm in a hole—for the entre half hour pre-set. The man who lives in the shack in the field and owns the land comes to see how he is, and offers him hospitality. Our Beardo has had a vision, a visitation, a little something in his head--whether God, the Devil, or an aneurysm--that gives him charisma and hypnotic powers. He can impart relaxation, release, confidence and faith to those who will give in to his charms—and that could easily include the wife of his host.
Act two is in the opulent court of Nicholas and Alexandra and Christine Crook’s costumes are more decorated and delightful than a Faberge egg. The Outside Man comes Inside through the Open Door, and nobody knows what to make of him. In a first miracle of calming and healing the hemophiliac Royal Prince toddler (with Juliet Heller as the Delicate Boy Child), engaging puppetry and poetry combine to start the rising action and to foreshadow Beardo’s doom. The court of the Tsar was exotic when it came to sexual escapades (think of Catherine the Great), so our Dionysiac Beardo’s sexual Svengali method fits tightly.
It quickly moves into Beardo’s seducing the entire court, and with the erotic choreography of Chris Black he soon has them literally eating out of his hand. Ordinarily, sex on stage is silly; when Beardo dances with the Tsarista (Anna Ishida) or the Shackman’s Wife (Sarah Mitchell), it changes the barometric pressure in the room. The second act culminates in a Court orgy that would make Bob Fosse proud and redefines the dance as audience-aphrodisiac; they cap it with an homage to “Boogie Nights.” It brings back memories of “Dionysus ’69” and Julian Beck.
Songs range from country to opera, from Russian folks songs to torch songs. Our lead (and other players) pickup a guitar and a microphone descends from above, while the others accompany with improvised percussion. The music is accompanied and supported by a superior string quintet. Brendan West’s Expressionistic sound design provides cues and clues to the churning in our anti-hero’s brain.
Shotgun is fortunate to have found the right actor to play the lead, a tricky, tricky part. Swarthy, hirsute Ashkon Davaran makes us believe and has the musical talent to rock us into rapturous faith. (He is the fan-atic from the YouTube video about the Giants’ World Series run, “Ashkon: Don’t Stop Believing” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52tCMIEBO-Q).
In fact, the entire cast is flawless. The deadpan delivery of Josh Pollock as the Shackman brings out the humor that in other hands could be tedious; it’s like that for most great works from Shakespeare to Shaw to Mamet—it’s in the delivery that it shines or fizzles. Anna Ishida as Tsarista (i.e., tsarina, queen) sizzles with sexuality and a very impressive vocal range that includes a high belt and wondrous control; her arc from depressed and put-upon foreign queen to regal and rebellious sovereign is award-worthy. Kevin Clarke as the milquetoast Tsar infuses his role with effortless comedy. Dave Garrett as the officious, abusive Count gives us a deliciously snobbish and impervious Machiavel to hate; it’s an impressive counterpoint to his Menelaus in last summer’s “Salt Plays: IN THE WOUND” at John Hinkel Park. Every actor supports the effort and is hip to this composite musical genre, right down to the booming Russian operatic chorus out of “Boris Gudunov” or an Eisenstein flick.
At two and a half hours with one intermission and a five minute “talk amongst yourselves” break, I wasn’t ever bored, always anticipating the next turn. Craig’s humor and irreverence makes it accessible for us rather than put it in some far off land a century past; Beardo speaks in a farmland Mid-west accent with simple repetition and expressions that tickle the ear.
The often-rewritten third act, with the death of Beardo, seems almost an epilogue. It doubles down on wacky irreverence and brings out the tutus—whether as metaphor or send-up or both. But it does not have the verve and the music of what’s gone before. The music is repetitive and recitative-like, and seems improvised and atonal rather than the previous engaging rhythms and melodies. The end-story is fulfilling, though, and it is an inventive telling of the last days of the Romanovs and their prophet.
With Artistic Director Patrick Dooley’s collaborative directing, the staging is impeccable and fluid and there is nary a visually boring moment. Bringing this much talent together and pointing them in the right directions without interfering is the mark of an experienced, first-class director.
Beardo may be for a hip audience, but that’s what Shotgun caters to, and is another feather in their cap for bringing delightful and innovative musicals to the theatre across from the Ashby Bart. It’s not just happenstance that the title rhymes with weirdo. Perhaps less polished than “Beowulf” and “God’s Ear”, but still absorbing, significant and funny as hell—if you like this sort of fare, I recommend you spend your hard-earned and increasingly limited lucre on Beardo.
Presented by Shotgun Players through April 24
At Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley (at Martin Luther King Jr. Way) across from Ashby BART
Book & lyrics by Jason Craig, original music by Dave Malloy, directed by Patrick Dooley
Produced by Bonnie Stiles and Tami White; Kristoffer Barrera — Sound Board Op; Chris Black — Choreography; Lisa Clark — Set Designer; Jason Craig — Book & Lyrics; Christine Crook — Costume Design; Tunuviel Luv — Properties Design; Michael Palumbo — Light Design; Brendan West — Sound Designer.
WITH: Kevin Clarke, Ashkon Davaran, Dave Garrett, J.P. Gonzalez, Juliet Heller, Anna Ishida, Sarah Mitchell, Josh Pollock, Eleanor Reinholdt
MUSICIANS: Gael Alcock, Jo Gray, Jessica Ling, Charles Montague, Olive Mitra
Beardo, Shotgun Players, Eye from the Aisle, East Bay, Theatre review
All shows are doors 7 pm, show time 8 pm, unless otherwise noted
2020 Addison Street, Berkeley CA 94704
Fri Apr 1 2011 John Jorgenson Quintet- Esprit de Django et Stephane Festival $22.50 $24.50
Franco-American jazz ensemble
Sat Apr 2 2011 Tony Marcus's Birthday w/ Cats & Jammers, Leftover Dreams, Steel Swingin’ w/ Bobby Black, members of Cheap Suit Serenaders, others TBA $20.50 $22.50
Tue Apr 5- Freight Open Mic $4.50/$6.50
Wed Apr 6 2011 Peggy Seeger $22.50/$24.50
Folksinger, songwriter, activist
Thu Apr 7 2011 Charles Hamilton & Beyond w/ Hitomi Oba & Glen Pearson $20.50 $22.50
straight ahead, hard driving, Afro-centric jazz
Fri Apr 8 2011 Robbie Fulks , Nel Robinson & Jim Nunally open $20.50 $22.50
Alt-country songwriter and guitarist
Sat Apr 9 2011 George Cole Quintet- Esprit de Django et Stephane Festival $22.50 $24.50
contemporary Gypsy jazz
Sun Apr 10 2011 Caren Armstrong w/ Joe Craven & Joshua Zucker $20.50 $22.50
a living testament to the art of self expression
Tue Apr 12 Vocal Jazz Open Mic w/ Ellen Hoffman $8.50/$10.50
Wed Apr 13 2011 Elephant Revival $20.50 $22.50
neo-acoustic, transcendental folk quintet
Thu Apr 14 2011 Sourdough Slim w/ Robert Armstrong $20.50 $22.50
the last of the vaudeville cowboys
Fri Apr 15 Maestro Ali Akbar Khan’s Annual Birthday Tribute Celebration $22.50 $24.50 - 7:00 pm
featuring Aashish Khan, Shujaat Khan, Swapan Chaudhuri, Alam Khan, and many others. Free afternoon events at 2 pm
Sat Apr 16 2011 Rory Block $20.50 $22.50
Reigning queen of country blues guitar
Sun Apr 17 2011 Karla Bonoff $34.50 $36.50
Soul touching songcraft
Mon pr 18 West Coast Songwriters Competition $6.50/$8.50 – 7:30 pm
Original songwriting contest & performance
Tue Apr 19 Freight Open Mic $4.50/$6.50
Thu Apr 21 Dr K’s Homegrown Roots Revue: Charles Wheal, Tip of the Top, Quinn Deveaux $14.50/$16.50
Fri Apr 22 2011 Susan Werner, Natalia Zuckerman opens $22.50 $24.50
Jazz tinged originals with sly, sexy wit
Sat Apr 23 2011 House Jacks $22.50 $24.50
Rock band without instruments
Sun Apr 24 Gerry Tenney & the Hard Times Orchestra $18.50/$20.50
Labor songs of Pete Seeger
Mon Apr 26 Classical@ the Freight- Gabriela Lena Frank & friends $8.50/$10.50
An informal evening of chamber music with San Francisco Chamber Orchestra’s director Ben Simon as host
Tue Apr 26 Saints & Tzadiks: Lorin Sklamberg & Susan McKeown $24.50/$26.50
a vivid array of Irish & Yiddish songs
Wed Apr 27 2011 Carol Denney $20.50 $22.50
Traditional & topical folk
Thu Apr 28 2011 James McMurtry, Patrick Sweany opens $24.50 $26.50
Fri Apr 29 2011 Cascada De Flores $22.50 $24.50
Gorgeous folkloric Mexican and Cuban music
Sat Apr 30 2011 Berkeley Old-Time Music Convention’s Spring Situation-Community Open House $FREE noon- 4 pm
free afternoon of old-time stringband picking, singing and dancing, including a family dance (12 pm), cabaret-style concert sets, jam sessions and workshops
Sat Apr 30 2011 Nell Robinson w/ All-Star Band, plus the Henriettas $20.50 $22.50
Honky-tonk infused bluegrass & country featuring John Reischman & the Jaybirds- Nell’s bday celebration!
Berkeley Symphony and Peet’s Coffee & Tea, in partnership with the Berkeley Unified School District, Berkeley Public Education Foundation, Young People’s Symphony Orchestra, and Crowden Music Center, announced today that they will host the first annual “Music in the Schools” Day on Saturday, April 16, 2011, to recognize and celebrate the community’s support of and commitment to music education.
The event will take place simultaneously at five Peet’s coffee stores on Vine Street, Solano Avenue, Fourth Street, Shattuck Avenue, and Domingo Avenue in Berkeley from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and will feature live performances by young musicians from partner organizations including the Young People’s Symphony Orchestra, Crowden Music Center, and the Berkeley Unified School District.
Individuals and families will have an opportunity to learn about music education efforts and resources in Berkeley, including programs developed by the school district, Berkeley Symphony, and other music organizations in the community, as well as about Berkeley Symphony’s “participatory” Family Concerts on Sunday, May 7. Berkeley Symphony’s Music in the Schools program currently provides a year-long, interactive introduction to symphonic music to more than 4,000 children in all eleven BUSD elementary schools each year.
“On April 16, we will come together as a community to celebrate the incredible depth and breadth of music education taking place in Berkeley schools and to reaffirm our commitment to continuing to make it so!” says Berkeley Symphony Executive Director Jim Kleinmann. “We hope everyone – parents, grandparents, students, teachers, staff, administrators, neighbors, musicians and music-lovers – interested in learning about and supporting music education will come out to the participating Peet’s stores that day and show their support.”
“Music in the Schools” Day
Date & Times: